Hiral Patel pleads guilty to obstructing justice in H-1B visa fraud investigation

NEW YORK: Hiral Patel,an Indian American human resources manager for two information technology companies in New Jersey, Hiral Patel, 34, has pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain H-1B visas.

Patel, of Jersey City, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty in Newark federal court to an information charging her with conspiracy to obstruct justice, , U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

A human resources manager of two IT firms — one of them based in Jersey City — admitted Tuesday that she obstructed a federal investigation into visa fraud involving foreign workers hired by the company.

That sponsorship involved assuring the government the workers had full-time positions and annual salaries, according to prosecutors. Instead, authorities say, the workers were only paid when the companies contracted them out to an unspecified third-party client.

Workers who weren’t placed with the client were required to pay the companies what would have been their gross wages, so the companies could re-disburse the funds through payroll as “proof” for the government that the workers were employed full-time.

The U.S. Department of Labor later launched an audit of the companies, during which time Patel helped prepare fake leave slips for employees who weren’t working, as required by law, she admitted in court.

Both MMC Systems, based in Virginia, and SCM Data, of Jersey City, are part-owned by Sowrabh Sharma, of New York, who was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in September 2016 with conspiring to commit visa fraud and to obstruct justice, and “conspiring to harbor aliens.” Patel faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Her sentencing has been scheduled for June 1.

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