September 08, 2009, 9:42 AM — The U.S. government late last month filed a new, expanded 18-count indictment that now seeks $4.9 million from a New Jersey IT services firm it has accused of fraudulently using H-1B visas.
The government alleges that South Plainfield, N.J.-based Vision Systems Group Inc. paid its H-1B workers in multiple states based on low prevailing wage rates in Iowa through the creation of shell businesses in that state.
The indictment charges that the methods used by Vision Systems "have substantially deprived U.S. citizens of employment."
The initial 10-count indictment against Vision Systems , filed on Feb. 12, was part of a government investigation dubbed Operation Pacific Vision that led to the arrest of 11 people in six states on H-1B fraud charges.
Court documents show that the expanded indictment cut the amount sought by $2.5 million; no explanation for the reduction was given. But it is still the largest H-1B fraud case ever brought by the government.
The figure "represents he total amount of gross proceeds obtained as a result of offenses," according to the indictment.
Vision Systems and its executives are fighting the charges in U.S. District Court in Iowa.
"Workers were paid at or above the prevailing wage rates of the places that they were working," Mark Weinhardt, a Des Moines attorney and a member of the legal team representing the company, contended last week.
Visions Systems' defense has not yet been outlined but is hinted at in the indictment papers.
According to prosecutors, Vision Systems told its H-1B hires that green cards could be obtained more quickly from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices located outside of New Jersey.
Thus, Vision Systems might claim that it has been using the faster service available at the Iowa ICE offices as a recruiting tool for H-1B workers interested in getting green cards quickly.
Weinhardt did note that the defense team believes that the "indictment is based on a number of misconceptions about immigration law and procedure."