SAN JOSE – Two South Bay executives have been charged with submitting dozens of bogus H-1B visa applications and laundering $1 million in proceeds, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On Friday, Namrata Patnaik, 42, of Saratoga, and Kartiki Parekh, 56, of Santa Clara, appeared in San Jose federal court to face an indictment charging them with two counts of visa fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Patnaik is also charged with one count of money laundering.
Attorneys for the executives said they will fight the charges. They called the federal government’s accusations “a misuse and misapplication of the complex H-1B visa laws.”
“We believe we will ultimately prevail as the allegations are based on withdrawn policies that the Trump administration attempted to enforce that discriminated against Indian entrepreneurs and harm the economic agility of Silicon Valley,” said Chris Cannon of San Francisco-based law firm Sugarman & Cannon in a statement Friday.
According to the indictment, Patnaik and Parekh served as CEO and human resources manager, respectively, of PerfectVIPs, a computer chip design product and services company based in San Jose, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.
Patnaik and Parekh are accused of submitting 85 fraudulent H-1B visa applications for temporary nonimmigrant workers sponsored by PerfectVIPs from 2011 through April 2017. They allegedly made statements that the workers would be employed by PerfectVIPs to work on the firm’s in-house projects and projects at its office locations, but once the applications were approved, they instead created a pool of H-1B workers that were placed at positions with other employers, according to the release.
“This practice provided PerfectVIPs an unfair and illegal advantage over employment staffing firms,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, adding that the indictment alleges other employers paid fees of nearly $7 million to PerfectVIPs to cover the cost of the workers’ wages and salaries as well as a profit markup for the firm.
PerfectVIPs followed the H-1B policies and properly notified the government when engineers moved from one location to another, Cannon said.
“As with most jobs, sometimes employees work at the home office, and sometimes they work at sites designated by the client,” he said. “As long as the employee is paid Silicon Valley wages, the location of the job site does not matter. Moreover, when a job site moved, the company informed the government and filled out the proper paperwork required.”
According to Cannon, the U.S. Department of Justice is being misled by United States Customs and Immigration Service holdovers from the Trump administration who would not issue H-1B visas unless the applicant attempted to provide exact job site location, even though there was no legal requirement to provide that information.
If convicted, Patnaik and Parekh face up to five years in prison for the conspiracy to commit visa fraud count and up to 10 years in prison for each of the visa fraud counts. Patnaik also faces up to 10 years in prison for the money laundering count. In addition, the executives could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for each count.
A judge on Friday ordered Patnaik and Parekh to appear in U.S. District Court in San Jose on April 12.
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