USCIS Identified H-1B Visa Fraud and Initiated Investigation
NEWARK, N.J. – An owner of two information technology companies was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in prison for his role in using phony documents to fraudulently obtain H-1B visas for foreign workers and submitting false tax returns, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officer at the Vermont Service Center identified fraud and provided support to the investigation in this case. The FDNS Unit of the Newark Field Office then provided significant support to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and other law enforcement partners during the criminal investigation that led to the confirmation, prosecution and conviction of visa fraud.
Sowrabh Sharma, 34, of New York, New York, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to a superseding information charging him with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and with subscribing to false tax returns. Judge McNulty imposed the sentence Wednesday in Newark federal court.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
SCM Data Inc. and MMC Systems Inc. offered consultants to clients in need of IT support. Both companies recruited foreign nationals with purported IT expertise, often student visa holders or recent college graduates, and sponsored them for H-1B visas with the stated purpose of working for SMC Data and MMC Systems’ clients throughout the United States.
Sharma admitted that from 2010 through April 2015, he and others falsely represented to USCIS that dozens of foreign workers had full-time “in-house” positions, and would be paid an annual salary, as required to secure the visas. However, Sharma and his companies only paid the foreign workers when they were placed at a third-party client, or a company that entered into a contract for services with SCM Data and MMC Systems. Sharma further admitted that he and SCM Data and MMC Systems were violating U.S. Department of Labor regulations by not paying workers who were “benched,” or not working on a project.
Sharma also admitted that in some instances, foreign workers who were “benched” between projects and not working were told that if they wanted to maintain their H-1B visa status, they would need to come up with what their gross wages would be in cash and give it to SCM Data and MMC Systems to generate phony payroll checks.
Sharma also admitted that he intentionally overstated and claimed false expenses pertaining to SCM Data and MMC Systems on his U.S. Individual Tax Returns for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 that resulted in a tax loss to the United States of over $1.1 million.
In addition to the prison term, Judge McNulty sentenced Sharma to one year of supervised release. Sharma made payment of the $1.1 million tax loss and penalties to the IRS prior to sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito praised special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael, the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, in New York, and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of John R. Tafur, with the investigation.