Bay Area businessman pleads guilty in high-tech worker visa fraud scam

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Plea agreement calls for defendant to forfeit $100,000 in proceeds from scheme

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A Bay Area businessman pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to multiple counts of visa fraud admitting he submitted employment visa applications on behalf of 19 foreign high-tech workers he falsely claimed had jobs lined up with an area biotech firm.

Balakrishnan Patwardhan, 53, of Cupertino, admitted that, between July 2008 and October 2010, he knowingly submitted false immigration forms and supporting documentation to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seeking high-tech worker visas for 19 applicants. Patwardhan claimed the individuals had job offers with Gilead Sciences in Foster City, though he knew the firm did not have positions for the applicants. Patwardhan also admitted he had included altered contracts and created false statements of work as part of the visa fraud scam.

The case is the result of a probe led by the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service's representative to the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF), which is overseen by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations.

Patwardhan was indicted in March 2013. As part of his plea, Patwardhan agreed to forfeit $100,000 in proceeds he obtained from the fraud scheme. He has been free on $50,000 bond since his arrest last March. As a condition of his release, Patwardhan was barred from providing consulting services for technology companies or any visa services.

Patwardhan's sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 18 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose. The maximum statutory penalty for visa fraud is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The prosecution was handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Fazioli and Jeff Nedrow are prosecuting the case, aided by Legal Assistants Laurie Worthen and Susan Kreider.

The DBFTF is a multi-agency task force that coordinates investigations involving fraudulent immigration documents. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's Office of Fraud Detection and National Security also assisted with the case.

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