Two Telugu men were among four Indians who were arrested by authorities in the United States earlier this week on charges of using the H-1B visa program to gain an unfair advantage over competitors.
The accused were identified as 39-year-old Vijay Mane and 53-year-old Fernando Silva — both from Princeton, New Jersey; 47-year-old Venkataramana Mannam from Edison and 52-year-old Sateesh Vemuri from San Jose, California. Each of them was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud by the US Department of Justice, District of New Jersey.
Sateesh and Venkatramana reportedly hail from Andhra Pradesh. While Venkataramana Rao reportedly contested an election from the state's Prakasam district on a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) ticket in 2009, Sateesh was reported to be an influential member of Telugu Association of North America (TANA).
According to a page on TANA's website, Sateesh supported several events of TANA in the Bay Area, including large conferences that the association often organises.
A statement from US Attorney Craig Carpenito's office said, “Sateesh made his initial appearance on July 1, 2019, before US Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in a Newark federal court. Venkataramana and Fernando appeared before US Magistrate Judge Leda Dunn Wettre in Newark federal court on June 25, 2019; Vijay appeared before Judge Wettre on June 27, 2019. All were released on a $250,000 bond.”
According to the documents filed in the case and statements made in court, Vijay, Venkataramana and Sateesh controlled two IT staffing companies located in Middlesex County, New Jersey — Procure Professionals Inc. and Krypto IT Solutions Inc.
Authorities said that Fernando and Venkataramana also controlled another New Jersey staffing company, referred to in the complaint as 'Client A'.
"The defendants used Procure and Krypto to recruit foreign nationals and sponsor them for H-1B visas, which allow recipients to live and work temporarily in the US in positions requiring specialised skills. To expedite their visa applications, the defendants caused Procure and Krypto to file H-1B applications falsely asserting that the foreign worker/beneficiaries had already secured positions at Client A, when, in reality, no such positions existed," authorities said.
"Instead, the defendants used these fraudulent applications to build a 'bench' of job candidates already admitted to the United States, who could then be hired out immediately to client companies without the need to wait through the visa application process, giving the defendants an advantage over their competitors in the staffing industry,” they added.
The case was investigated by the US Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the US Department of Labor.
Under US law, the charge of conspiracy carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.