Two executives at software development company Santa Clara have been charged with visa fraud

The two senior executives of a software development company in Santa Clara were charged this week in federal court in San Jose with visa fraud and conspiracy to commit a visa fraud.

Elangovan Punniakoti, 52, CEO of Innovate Solutions and Mary Christina, 47, president of Innovate Solutions, a technology services company founded in Cupertino in 2008 and now headquartered in Santa Clara, appeared in federal court on April 12 to deal with the federal indictments. Ponyakoti and Christina are The inhabitants of Cupertino.

U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds said the indictments came in the wake of investigations by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, Homeland Security and the Office of Fraud and National Security of the Citizenship and Immigration Services.

According to the indictment, Innovate Solutions, Inc. Santa Clara County was incorporated in 2008 as an information technology services company.

The indictment alleges that from 2010 to May 2020, Punniakoti and Christina repeatedly filed fraudulent applications for H-1B visas for foreign workers under the auspices of Innovate Solutions. H-1B visas are issued through the U.S. Government H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers Program. With an H-1B visa, a sponsoring employer can employ a foreign worker in the United States on a temporary basis, who is not a “special occupation” immigrant.

During the period of the conspiracy of Ponyakotti and Christina, the indictment alleges, the other employers paid a fee of more than $ 2.5 million to Innovate Solutions to cover the cost of salaries and salaries of H-1B employees as well as a profit tag for Innovate Solutions.

The federal indictment accuses both Ponyakotti and Christina of one count of conspiracy to commit a visa fraud and six counts of visa fraud. The maximum sentence of imprisonment set forth in the law for a conspiracy charge is 5 years imprisonment. The maximum statutory sentence of imprisonment for any visa fraud is 10 years. Each of the charged laws also carries a maximum statutory fine of $ 250,000 or twice the gross profit or loss amount.

Special occupation requires a theoretical and practical application of a special body of knowledge and requires the employee with a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the relevant specialization. Any employer applying for an H-1B visa to employ a non-immigrant foreign worker is required to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Labor that attests, among other things, to the working conditions and describes the existence, duration, and temporary pay. Working. Said the plaintiffs.

A subsequent petition requires, inter alia, biographical data of the proposed foreign worker and the address at which the proposed foreign worker will work for the financing employer.

The indictment alleges that Punniakoti and Christina filed about 54 fraudulent applications for H-1B visas for non-immigrant temporary workers sponsored by Innovate Solutions. Each request required presentations made subject to the punishment of perjury regarding the name, location, conditions and existence of the employment officer for the non-immigrant funded employee.

The indictment states that Ponyakotti and Christina filed statements in the application process that the foreign workers would work off-site at specific end-customer companies. The indictment alleges that the end customer companies identified never accepted the proposed foreign workers or never intended to accept those workers.

The indictment also alleges that Ponyakotti and Christina filed or caused statements to be made that a foreign worker would work on an internal project for Innovate Solutions even though they knew no such project existed.

Following approval of the applications, Punniakoti and Christina created a pool of H-1B employees who were placed in employment positions with other employers who had actual work, rather than with identified end customers. The practice provided Innovate Solutions with an unfair and illegal advantage over manpower companies, according to the federal indictment.

Ponyakotti and Christina were released from custody pending their next scheduled appearance in federal court in San Jose on July 25.

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