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Company, officials indicted for fraud in Iowa

DES MOINES — Federal authorities on Thursday announced the arrests and indictments of 11 people in six states — including Massachusetts — as part of an investigation into visa and mail fraud.

An indictment names Vision Systems Group Inc., a New Jersey company that has an office in Coon Rapids, Iowa.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Whitaker said the information technology company brought highly educated foreign workers into the United States to fill supposed vacancies in high-tech jobs.

The company is accused of filing documents with the government showing the workers were employed in Iowa, where they could be paid less than if they worked on the coasts.

"We allege those workers were actually on the coasts working in much higher-wage jobs although they were receiving wages that were the prevailing wage in Iowa and thereby, we allege, dislocating and displacing United States workers that could have done those jobs in those locations," Whitaker said.

The government also is seeking the forfeiture of $7.4 million in proceeds raised through the alleged offenses.

Whitaker said the workers came to the country under an H-1B visa, which allows college educated foreign workers to come to the U.S. to fill vacancies in high-tech jobs, such as computer programming and engineering.

"This is an enforcement effort that points to a significant vulnerability in our visa process and we're trying ... to close these loopholes and to take away the incentive to conduct these fraudulent schemes," Whitaker said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as this investigation goes."

According to the 10-count indictment, Vision Systems Group and some of its workers submitted false statements and documents in support of their visa petitions, and that the false documents were mailed or wired to state and federal agencies.

The documents include certifying to the Department of Labor the name of each worker, the job they are performing, the wage they are being paid and the location where they are working.

The indictment alleges that Vision Systems Group failed to maintain a permanent office for workers in Iowa, but Whitaker declined to comment on whether the Coon Rapids office identified in documents was an operating office.

Some company workers are accused of mailing tax returns with W-2's attached to the Iowa Department of Revenue when they actually worked in other states.

Only 65,000 skilled workers are allowed into the U.S. on H-1B visas. They can stay in the country for three years with an option for an additional three years.

The workers who were arrested Wednesday are: Shiva Neeli, arrested in Boston on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Ramakrishna Maguluri, arrested in Atlanta on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Villiappan Subbaiah, arrested in Dallas on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Suresh Pola; arrested in Philadelphia on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Chockalingham Palaniappan, arrested in San Jose, Calif., on conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud charges; Vijay Myneni, arrested in San Jose, Calif., on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Venkata Guduru, arrested in New Jersey on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; Amit Justa, arrested in New Jersey on conspiracy and mail fraud charges; and Karambir Yadav, arrested in Louisville, Ky., on conspiracy and mail fraud charges.

Vishnu Reddy, who was arrested in Los Angeles on conspiracy, mail fraud and wire fraud charges and named in a separate indictment, was identified as the president of Pacific West Corporation, of Santa Clara, Calif. Another indictment named Praveen Andapally, who was arrested in New Jersey on conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and for false statement in immigration matter. He identified as president of Venturisoft Inc., of South Plainfield, N.J.

Whitaker could not immediately identify the country of origin of each individual but said that some of the workers are from India and Pakistan.

Mike Aytes, acting deputy director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said the H-1B program is a good program but that some adjustments will be made.

"We're because it illustrates some vulnerabilities in the program, vulnerabilities that this kind of investigation is helping to deal with and we expect we will make some additional adjustments in the program based on what we found here to ensure the integrity of the immigration system in the United States," Aytes said.

Whitaker said those who were arrested are not considered a national security risk and are interviewed before they enter the country.

"Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, we have vetted these employees ... so even though they're not in the same location they're supposed to be and there may have been fraud conducted on the documents, at the same time there are other systems in place that should review these folks for national security issues," he said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Social Security Administration all participated in the investigation.


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