By: Bruce E. Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

The Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO) found in United States v. Bhattacharya, 14 OCAHO no. 1380 (2020), an employer representative violated the document fraud provisions of 8 U.S.C. § 1324c in the preparation of 35 H-1B visas with knowledge that they contained false statements and material misrepresentations.

This decision arose out of a Complaint and Notice of Intent to Fine (NIF) alleging 57 violations of 8 U.S.C. § 1324c and seeking penalties of $21,375.

It was alleged three shell companies, Unified Systems, Unified Software Solutions, and United Technologies, who purported to be staffing companies, all had contracts with EcomNets. However, the reality was the companies filed H-1B petitions for the benefit of individuals who would not otherwise have work authorization, falsely claiming that the beneficiaries would work at a data center in Danville, Virginia, owned by Ecomnets. But there were no actual end clients; rather, the search for employment for the beneficiaries only occurred after the H-1B petitions were approved by the USCIS.

Bhattacharya was employed by EcomNets as its IT Staffing Operations Manager. The Complaint asserts Bhattacharya forged and falsely filed 35 H-1B petitions on behalf of EcomNets and the shell companies, as well as 22 purchase orders. The record reflects Bhattacharya, and five co-defendants were indicted for various offenses related to the H-1B fraud scheme. Bhattacharya’s case was dismissed with prejudice because the government violated its discovery obligations. One of the co-conspirators, Richa Narang, was found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and two counts of visa fraud. The findings of fact and portions of the trial transcript from the Narang trial are part of the record.

ICE contends it has proven Bhattacharya knowingly forged and falsely made H-1B visa petitions and supporting documents. OCAHO found ICE has proven the element of knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence. Ms. Narang testified to observing Bhattacharya signing documents in support of H-1B petitions as the person authorized to sign for Unified Systems under her own name, while using fictitious names, Sam Bose for United Software Solutions and Sonia Basu for United Technologies. The two latter names were fictitious names as Bhattacharya did not have any role with those companies.

The trial judge found Bhattacharya also signed forged documents to be used to mislead the USCIS including “purchase orders designed to convince USCIS officials that there was a bona fide business relationship between the ‘shell’ company that acted as the I-129 petitioner and EcomNets.”

The evidence shows that the documents contained false and fabricated information. The evidence also shows that Bhattacharya misrepresented the company she worked for when she signed on behalf of three companies that did not exist with positions that she did not hold and signed under fictitious names. Each of the Form I-129 applications contained a description of either Unified Systems, Unified Software Solutions, or United Technologies, signed by Bhattacharya or one of her aliases, when these companies did not exist.

OCAHO found ICE had met its burden of proof, by circumstantial evidence, to show that Bhattacharya assisted in preparing and providing a document with knowledge that the documents contained false statements and material misrepresentation and used to satisfy a requirement under the INA.

In response, Bhattacharya, in a letter to OCAHO, conceded she worked for EcomNets, but denied doing any immigration paperwork. She also stated she received documents, but she sent them to Ms. Narang who got them signed, and then she sent them back to the concerned person. Bhattacharya alleged Ms. Narang’s testimony is not true and Ms. Narang was convicted of making false statements to a federal agent.

OCAHO found a letter is not evidence to contradict the Complaint’s findings; rather, she merely denied the allegations and the testimony in a conclusory fashion. These general denials do not create a genuine issue of material fact. Thus, OCAHO found ICE met its burden of proof to show 36 violations of § 1324c(a)(1).

OCAHO further held ICE had not meet its burden of production as regards 21 purchase orders and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefing regarding these allegations.

If you want to know more information on immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at