Indian held in US visa fraud racket
Narendra Mandalapa is in the custody of US Marshals Service after charges were filed in District Court in Newark.Updated: Jan 14, 2006 16:57 IST
An Indian citizen living in New Jersey is in federal custody after agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized $5,724,592 in assets from the suspect's bank and brokerage accounts in a massive immigration benefits fraud investigation.
Narendra Mandalapa has been charged with fraud and misuse of visas violations.
Mandalapa is currently in the custody of the United States Marshals Service after charges were filed in US District Court in Newark.
During the investigation, ICE agents discovered that Mandalapa filed nearly 1,000 possibly fraudulent labour-based petitions on behalf of Indian and Pakistani nationals seeking to enter or remain in the US.
The petitions were for skilled computer workers. Both US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and ICE continue to investigate those aliens who received the fraudulent immigration benefits.
Investigators are also working to determine how many people fraudulently entered the country and how many already in the US may have received fraudulent labour benefits.
Acting Newark Special Agent in charge, Thomas E Manifase said, "Immigration benefit fraud is a multi billion dollar business and cannot be tolerated. This type of fraud not only steals jobs from legitimate workers but it also provides individuals to illegally enter the United States and creates a risk to national security and public safety."
This investigation is a product of a joint anti-fraud initiative undertaken by ICE, USCIS and the Department of Labour's Office of the Inspector General.
The investigation began when a special fraud detection unit of USCIS uncovered a pattern of fraud in petitions for immigration benefits submitted by Mandalapa through one of his companies.
The USCIS Fraud Detection Unit in St Albans, Vermont, referred their analysis to the ICE Benefit Fraud Unit (IBFU), also based in Vermont.
The IBFU then coordinated with ICE Special Agent in Charge in Newark to begin the field investigation that resulted in the arrest and asset seizure.
Investigators uncovered two shell companies in New Jersey owned by Mandalapa were created solely for the purpose of filing fraudulent labour-based petitions for foreign workers. During the investigation agents armed with search warrants seized computers and documents from the corporate address of Cybersoftec, Inc.
Agents believe that at least $2.1 million came from fees paid by individuals seeking fraudulent benefits.
Since the accounts were used to hide those illegal profits the government seized all money in the accounts. The assets seized come from four bank accounts in Edison, NJ, and two brokerage accounts in New York City.
Also included in the seizures were a Mercedes SUV and a Lexus sedan with a combine value of $100,000.
Manifase pointed out that the investigation is an outstanding example of how two agencies in the Department of Homeland Security cooperate to uncover and dismantle an organisation dedicated to undermining the legal immigration system and making huge profits.
Jennifer L Mickey, chief of the USCIS Fraud Detection Unit said, "Individuals who used fraud to obtain immigration benefits are breaking the law. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect the integrity of our immigration system by combating benefit fraud."
First Published: Jan 14, 2006 14:32 IST