March 29, 2011, 8:50 PM — A California businessman last week was sentenced to six months in prison for trying to get H-1B visas for workers to fill jobs that did not exist, said the U.S. Department of Justice.
Srinivasa Chennupati, 33, pled guilty in December to visa fraud charges in a case heard in U.S. District Court in Oakland. The sentence also includes three years of supervised release.
Chennupati admitted that starting on April 1, 2009, he submitted 11 foreign worker petitions to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that contained "counterfeit job offer letters" from the Gap Corporation, Wells Fargo Bank and Genentech, the Justice Dept. said in a statement.
The jobs listed in the petitions were for computer systems analysts and software engineers that would be paid between $60,000 and $65,000, according to court records.
The USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions on April 1 for the next federal fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1.
Chennupati, a native of India, came to the U.S. in 2001 on a work visa and has worked legally in the U.S. since then, according to court records. He has a wife and two children, the records said.
The case arose "when the defendant, in a misguided attempt to raise more money to support his parents," branched out from his regular employment and started a second business.
Chennupati and his wife have been sending a large portion of their income back to India to support their family.
Chennupati created a second business as a headhunter to match employers in the U.S. with potential employees in India who would receive H-1B visas. In 2008, the company legally filed 10 H-1B petitions. In 2009, the business filed for 19 additional H-1B visas, 11 of which were fraudulent, according to court records.
Chennupati's attorney, John Jordan in San Francisco, wrote in a report to the court prior to sentencing, that Chennupati had attempted to withdraw the visa applications before being contacted by law enforcement.
Although the investigation was underway, Chennupati "did what he could to undo his mistake."
Chennupati cooperated with law enforcement from the beginning, pled guilty early on, and did not attempt to evade responsibility for his actions for what was "a truly aberrational mistake," his attorney wrote in the court report.