By: Bruce E Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

Two Florida business executives, Larisa Khariton and Jon Clark, and Educational World Inc. (Ed World), a visa processing company based in North Point, Florida, pled guilty in the Southern District of Georgia to charges related to their roles in a scheme to recruit and hire foreign nationals who were not authorized to work in the United States to fill temporary housekeeping and food service positions and commit various other criminal immigration offenses for profit.

The guilty pleas follow an indictment alleging the Ed World defendants submitted petitions for H-2B temporary work visas on behalf of defendant Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC (RHS) that contained false and misleading information about the location where noncitizen laborers allegedly were to be employed. In connection with their guilty pleas, the Ed World defendants admitted they engaged in deceitful and dishonest conduct to impede and obstruct the functioning of the H-2 non-immigrant visa program. The Ed World defendants also admitted they were paid a commission by RHS for noncitizens that Ed World recruited to work for RHS, including those who were not authorized to work for RHS in the United States.

Also, in the indictment, RHS, a Louisiana-based staffing company, and seven current and former RHS employees were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, including encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, as well as alien harboring, alien transporting, visa fraud and wire-fraud related offenses. According to the indictment, the individual defendants enriched themselves by participating in a scheme to recruit and hire noncitizen laborers without authorization to work for RHS. RHS provided hospitality-related businesses with laborers to work in housekeeping, retail, and food service positions, using noncitizens who were unauthorized to work in the United States to fill the positions.

The defendants and other co-conspirators also encouraged and induced noncitizen laborers on expiring and expired J-1 exchange visitor visas to obtain B-2 tourist visas and to work in the United States for RHS, knowing that employing such laborers on B-2 visas was illegal. According to admissions made in connection with their guilty pleas, the Ed World defendants prepared and submitted applications for B-2 visas on behalf of the workers after charging noncitizen laborers approximately $650 per application. The application contained false and misleading statements indicating the noncitizens intended to obtain the B-2 visa for the purpose of engaging in tourism. In fact, the Ed World defendants knew those noncitizens were already present in and intended to stay in the United States for employment, not tourism.

Khariton and Clark face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison; A federal district court judge will determine the sentences after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Charges remain pending against defendant RHS and the individual RHS defendants.

If you want to know more information on issues related to employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.