A Tracy man could face 12 years in federal prison for his conviction on 21 counts of visa fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft last week in a San Francisco federal court.
A news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced that Abhijit Prasad, 52, was found guilty by a jury Aug. 5 in a case that began with a Sacramento grand jury indictment in 2016. That grand jury was investigating visa applications dated October 2011 through April 2015 submitted through a visa service called Maremarks that Prasad ran from his home.
Prasad was shown to have filed 19 petitions for H-1B nonimmigrant visas containing false statements about work to be performed for California employers, including software engineering work at Cisco Systems.
H-1B visas for temporary workers allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in certain specialty occupations for up to three years.
During the trial, evidence showed that Prasad submitted forged Cisco documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of the visa applications, although Cisco did not expect any of the visa beneficiaries to work there.
He fraudulently used the digital signature of an actual Cisco employee, who was not authorized to sign employment documents, to create a fake contract for a project at Cisco for two people who were awarded H-1B visas.
Legal documents said that Prasad made money off each visa. The U.S attorney’s office said that Prasad had received a total of $1.2 million in payments from employers to pay H-1B workers, but how much he kept as his cut was unknown.
In a written statement, Tatum King, a special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations for San Francisco and Northern California, said HSI would continue working to catch people trying to undermine the laws of the United States.
“These types of fraudulent activities pose a severe threat to national security and public safety as it creates vulnerabilities for terrorists and other criminals to exploit,” King said. “HSI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate such criminal activities and will hold violators accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Prasad’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer is scheduled Oct. 16. The maximum penalty for his visa fraud conviction would be 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, in addition to a mandatory two-year prison term and a $250,000 fine for his aggravated identity theft conviction.