Owner of IT Firms in U.S. Admits to Committing Visa Frauds and Tax Crimes
Sowrabh Sharma of New York pleaded guilty to using false documents to fraudulently procure H-1B visas for foreign workers and submitting false tax returns.
An Indian-origin man in the United States has pleaded guilty to using false documents to fraudulently procure H-1B visas for foreign workers and submitting false tax returns. He was earlier charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and subscribing to false tax returns, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
New York-based Sowrabh Sharma, 33, owns two IT staffing and consulting companies. He pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court on Feb. 1.
Sharma faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the visa fraud conspiracy count and three years in prison on the tax fraud count. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 30, 2018.
Sharma and others working at the two information technology firms — SCM Data Inc., a New Jersey corporation, and MMC Systems Inc., a Virginia corporation, lied about hiring full-time foreign workers in order to secure H-1B visas for years, U.S. attorney Craig Carpenito said.
He added that in reality and contrary to immigration laws, these workers were often “benched” without pay while the companies created false documents to cover up the scheme. “This investigation, which has resulted in the conviction of an owner and several employees, including an immigration attorney, shows that businesses that use the H-1B visa program better do so with the utmost adherence to this nation’s immigration and labor laws,” Carpenito said.
According to the case documents and statements made in court, the two IT companies offered consultants to clients who required IT support. Both companies recruited foreign nationals with supposed IT expertise. These were often student visa holders or recent college graduates.
“Sharma admitted today that from 2010 through April 2015, he and others falsely represented to U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (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,” said the statement.
Sharma also admitted that he 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.
In addition, Sharma also confessed that in some cases foreign workers who were “benched” between projects and were not working were told that if they wanted to continue having their H-1B visa status, they would have to come up with what their gross wages would be in cash and give it to the two IT companies he owned to generate fraudulent payroll checks.
“Sharma also admitted that he intentionally overstated and claimed false expenses pertaining to SCM Data and MMC Systems on his individual tax returns for 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, resulting in a tax loss to the United States of approximately dollar 1,114,824,” the statement added.
Peter Nozka, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General New York Region said that Sharma misused the H-1B program in order to enrich himself at the expense of the foreign workers he sponsored for H-1B visas. “His company submitted false documents to the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security in order to perpetrate this fraud,” he added.
In 2016, Sharma was arrested after an indictment charged him, the two IT companies that he owned, as well as Shikha Mohta, 33, of New Jersey, with fraudulently using the H-1B visa program to reduce skilled labor costs. Mohta was the head of finance for the companies and they were all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to obstruct justice and one count of conspiracy to harbor aliens.