Florida Business Owners Plead Guilty to Fraud in Worker Visa Scheme

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Two business owners based in Florida pleaded guilty this week after their fraudulent scheme to hire illegal workers was uncovered.

“According to court documents, Educational World Inc. (Ed World), a visa processing company based in North Point; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, also of North Point, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Georgia on April 8,” the Department of Justice said in a press release. “The 36-count indictment also contained allegations against Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC (RHS), a Louisiana-based staffing company, and seven current and former RHS employees.”

All of the defendants were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States. Some were also charged for harboring illegal aliens, encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States and visa fraud.

Defendants who worked at RHS, the Louisiana company, were also charged with wire fraud.

Khariton and Clark both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States.

In the course of its illegal scheme, the DOJ said that “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,” and that “[i]n some cases, the RHS defendants arranged for and provided housing and transportation to the workers.”

The indictment also alleges that the defendants encouraged illegal aliens with expired J-1 temporary work visas to submit applications for B-2 tourist visas, so they could continue working in the United States. Under the false pretense that they were tourists, the employees continued working in the United States. Such applications cost $650, and according to the DOJ, Khariton and Clark paid those fees in order to keep their foreign laborers.

Khariton and Clark also submitted false information to the federal government when applying for H-2B temporary work visas for some of their companies’ employees, and that along with their guilty plea, they “admitted that they engaged in deceitful and dishonest conduct to impede and obstruct the functioning of, among other things, the H-2 non-immigrant visa program.”

The defendants will be sentenced at a later date, according to the press release. They each face up to five years in prison.

Abuse of federal work visa programs is relatively common in the United States.

Earlier this year, a Houston-based tech staffing firm admitted to creating fake positions for nonimmigrant “workers,” who then obtained H-1B “high-skilled” temporary worker visas. There were never jobs allotted for the supposed workers.

In 2020, a man was arrested in Virginia on charges alleging that he ran a $21 million H-1B visa scheme.

In the same year, a Chinese businesswoman was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison for submitting fraudulent H-1B and F-1 visa applications.

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Pete D’Abrosca is a contributor at The Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Pete on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].

 

 

 

 

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