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Indian CEO arrested on visa fraud charges

September 01, 2018 15:51 IST

Image only for representation.

An Indian citizen, who was the chief executive officer of two information technology companies in the United States, has been arrested in connection with a multi-year visa-fraud scheme involving forged and fraudulent documents to get visas such as H1B for over 200 foreign workers.

Pradyumna Kumar Samal, 49, was taken into custody as he arrived from an international flight at Seattle airport.

The criminal complaint describing the visa-fraud scheme was filed under seal in April 2018, soon after Samal fled the United States while the investigation was ongoing.

 

He remained out of the country until this week when he was arrested by law enforcement.

The criminal complaint describes how two companies incorporated by Samal in 2010 and 2011 in Washington state engaged in a scheme sometimes referred to as a 'bench-and-switch' scheme, to exploit foreign-national workers, compete unlawfully in the market, and defraud the US government.

According to the investigation that began in 2015, Samal served as the Chief Executive Officer of 'Divensi' and 'Azimetry' in Bellevue, near Seattle. Both companies were in the business of providing information-technology workers, such as Software Development Engineers, to major corporate clients.

The complaint alleges that Samal submitted, and directed his employees to submit, forged and false application materials to the United States government, making it appear as if two corporate clients already had agreed to use several foreign-national employees named in the applications.

However, neither client had agreed to do so.

The forged documents included forged letters and fraudulent statements of work, which appeared as if they had been signed by senior executives at the two clients.

After the US Citizenship and Immigration Services relied on the false representations and approved the work visa applications, Samal's companies benched the foreign nationals, leaving those foreign nationals unpaid unless they were able to place those employees at actual end clients.

Nearly 200 workers may have been brought in under the phony applications.

The employees were forced to pay Samal's companies a partially-refundable 'security deposit' of as much as $5,000 for the visa filings, regardless of whether they were assigned to any projects that provided them with income.

Visa Fraud is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $2,50,000 fine.

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Indian-origin woman sentenced on health care fraud charges

An Indian-origin woman has been sentenced to over five years in prison for health care fraud and making false statements related to a health care benefits programme.

Vilasini Ganesh was sentenced on August 28 to 63 months in prison, US Attorney Alex Tse said.

Ganesh, 47 and her husband Gregory Belcher, 56, both of California were convicted of the charges in December last year after an eight-week trial.

The evidence at trial demonstrated Ganesh submitted a series of false medical claims related to the family medical practice she owned in California's Saratoga town.

She submitted claims for days when a patient had not been seen by the provider and claims for patients who had been seen by a physician provider who no longer was affiliated with her practice. Additionally, she billed insurers with claims that certain patients were seen 12-15 times in a single month.

In July 2017, a federal grand jury indicted Ganesh and Belcher, charging them with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering as well as on multiple other counts of health care fraud.

During Ganesh's sentencing hearing, Judge Lucy Koh said that Ganesh obstructed justice by misrepresenting her understanding of the legal system, the amount of money she was paid by insurers, and whether she understood that it was improper to 'upcharge' when submitting claims to insurers.

In addition to the prison term, Koh sentenced Ganesh to a 3-year term of supervised release and ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of over $344,000. Ganesh will begin serving the prison sentence on November 1, 2018.

In April this year, Belcher was sentenced to a year and a day in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release.

 

Yohita Singh in New York
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