A large-scale, at least five-years-long, H-1B fraud conspiracy in Northern Virginia has been broken up by federal officials who revealed last week that a six-count indictment has been handed down against Ashish Sawhney, a green-card holding Indian national.
He and his four companies are said to have grossed $21 million in illicit profits. He is said to have "submitted or caused to be submitted H-1B visa application materials stating that the foreign workers named ... would fulfill a specific job where, in fact, no such job existed at the time of the filing." He is also being charged with naturalization fraud.
Further details are lacking both in the U.S. Attorney's press release and in the press coverage in India. The expected PACER filing of the indictment is not yet available.
The White Pages show that a 48-year-old with that name lives in Sterling, Va., which is also the headquarters of some of his companies. He and his wife live in a handsome, 2006-built house on a corner lot with five and a half bathrooms and a cathedral/foyer valued at just under $1 million by Zillow.
Key questions are how did Sawhney manage to make $21 million out of his operation, and why did the feds take so long to notice? The release said that the schemes ran from 2011 to 2016.
One can assume that this case, like so many others masterminded by people with South Asian names and preying on their former countrymen, is similar to several we have reported on in the past (see here and here). Both of those cases also were in the Eastern District of Virginia.
In these situations, the middleman gets income from two different sources: There is often an up-front fee charged to the would-be H-1B and then, later, when that person (usually a male from the southern part of the country) arrives, he is rented out to a real employer at a pay rate that is much higher than what the worker receives. That worker, of course, is in a bind — if he blows a whistle, he exposes himself as an illegal alien.
One of Sawhney's companies, Value Consulting, shows up in the myvisajobs.com listings as securing permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to hire 74 H-1B workers in 2015, and 44 more the next year. These permissions, given the lottery system, mean that the company probably got only one third as many as sought. But with four companies, over a period of five years, there probably were many other phony H-1B jobs secured.
The Washington Post has not, at least not yet, reported on the case.