Loreto Kudera, 45, and Hazel Kudera, 43, who admitted to giving false information to U.S. immigration authorities when applying for H-1B visas for foreign nurses and previously forfeited $1 million were sentenced to two years of probation.
U.S. District Judge J. Garvan Murtha sentenced attorney Loreto Kudera and Hazel Kudera, the owner of several medical staffing agencies, to two years of probation as well as separate $25,000 fines, according to documents filed in the federal court docket.
The couple pled guilty on June 9 to conspiring to commit immigration fraud by falsely stating to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in St. Albans, Vermont, that foreign nurses whom the pair were helping to secure work in the U.S. would be working in specialty occupations, as required by the H-1B visa program. Later that month, the pair agreed to forfeit $1 million in illegal proceeds from the scheme.
“As Judge Murtha recognized, Loreto Kudera is a good and decent man who exercised mistaken judgment in doing a bad and foolish thing with honest intentions,” Loreto Kudera’s attorney told the media. “We’re grateful for the judge’s wisdom and compassion in realizing that Mr. Kudera has suffered enough — especially where the scheme’s acknowledged ringleader and mastermind escaped prosecution entirely.”
Hazel Kudera’s attorney, Richard Willstatter of Green & Willstatter., said that Judge Murtha carefully considered the facts and the arguments of both sides. “His thoughtful and reasoned decision to sentence Hazel Kudera to probation and a fine reflected his consideration of all the facts before him and the goals Congress set for sentencing,” Willstatter said. “Hazel Kudera is a good person, but she made a terrible error in judgment in committing a crime. The court recognized that imprisonment was neither necessary nor appropriate.”
Prosecutors say that Hazel Kudera owns multiple staffing agencies in New York that specialize in providing nurses to hospitals, outpatient and skilled nursing facilities. According to the government, during the course of the scheme, she and Loreto Kudera, who was formerly an attorney at the New York immigration and real estate firm the Law Offices of Barry Silberzweig PC, submitted at least 100 fraudulent applications to authorities, and profited from the filing fees they collected from the nurses and from the health care facilities that paid Hazel Kudera’s staffing agencies.
Hazel and Loreto Kudera, prosecutors say, seeking to game the limited number of H-1B visas that are available each year, falsely stated that the foreign nurses would be working in specialty occupations at prevailing wage rates when in actuality they were going to work as licensed practical nurses or registered nurses at much lower rates of pay, mostly at nursing homes. LPN and RN are not considered to be specialty occupations by USCIS, according to the office of Eric S. Miller, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont.
During the scheme, Hazel Kudera was the owner of NYC Healthcare Staffing — formerly known as P&K of New York Management Services Inc. — and LHK Consulting, which were medical staffing companies that share the same Fifth Avenue address in Manhattan, court records show.
As part of the alleged scam, Hazel Kudera falsified a staffing agreement between NYC Healthcare Staffing and Dewitt Rehabilitation, which operates rehabilitation and nursing care facilities, listing job positions that didn’t exist, such as clinical coordinator and health care quality assurance manager, in order to prop up the false job titles she provided to USCIS, according to prosecutors. Loreto Kudera, among others, knew that information was false, but used it anyway when applying for H-1B visas, according to the government.