Lowndes County whistle-blower led to Indian corporation paying record settlement
Published 5:27 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2013
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Thanks to a Lowndes County resident who acted as a whistle-blower, Infosys Corporation, an Indian company involved in consulting, technology, and outsourcing, has agreed to a record civil settlement representing the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.
“Infosys Corporation, an Indian company involved in consulting, technology, and outsourcing, has agreed to a civil settlement of allegations of systemic visa fraud and abuse of immigration processes by paying a record settlement amount and agreeing to enhanced corporate compliance measures,” according to U.S. Attorney John M. Bales, Eastern District of Texas.
He made the announcement on last Thursday.
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Baes said, “The $34 million payment made by Infosys as a result of these allegations represents the largest payment ever levied in an immigration case.”
Davilyn Walston, public information officer/law enforcement coordinator, U.S. Attorney’s Office/Eastern District of, confirmed that the whistle-blower in this case was Jay Palmer of Lowndesboro.
Walston said, “By law, the whistleblower is entitled to between 15 and 25 percent of the portion of the settlement that is attributable to the illegal conduct that the whistleblower identified. However, the actual amount of any payments is confidential.”
Montgomery Attorney Kenneth J. Mendelsohn, who represented Palmer, said, “I think it was a very courageous act that he did coming forward and blowing the whistle.”
He said, “This is so significant because many Americans lost their jobs because of this type of illegal conduct and hopefully this will serve as a deterrent in the future.”
Mendelsohn said his client chose to live in Lowndesboro to be close to the airport because he flew about 200,000 a year.
According to information provided by Walston, Infosys is located in 30 countries, including the United States, and in 17 cities in the U.S., including a location in Plano, Texas.
The Plano location is responsible for handling the immigration practices and procedures for the United States operations of Infosys. Infosys brings foreign nationals into the United States in order to perform work and fulfill contracts with its customers under two visa classification programs relevant to this matter, H-1B and B-1.
According to court documents, the government alleged instances of Infosys circumventing the requirements, limitations, and governmental oversight of the H-1B visa program by knowingly and unlawfully using B-1 visa holders to perform skilled labor in order to fill positions in the United States for employment that would otherwise be performed by United States citizens or require legitimate H-1B visa holders.
The government also alleges that Infosys did so in order to increase profits, minimize costs of securing visas, increase flexibility of employee movement, obtain an unfair advantage over competitors, and avoid tax liabilities.
Specific allegations include the following:
Infosys used B-1 visa holders to perform jobs that involved skilled labor that were instead required to be performed by United States citizens or required legitimate H-1B visa holders.
Infosys submitted “invitation letters” to U.S. Consular Officials that contained false statements regarding the true purpose of a B-1 visa holder’s travel in order to deceive U.S. Consular Officials and secure entry of the visa holder into the United States. These letters often stated that the purpose of travel was for “meetings” or “discussions” when the true purpose was to engage in activities not authorized under a B-1 visa.
Infosys directed B-1 visa holders to deceive U.S. Consular Officials, including specific instructions to avoid certain terminology, to secure entry of the visa holder into the United States. Infosys created a “Do’s and Don’ts” memorandum that it provided to foreign nationals entering the United States on a B-1 visa that included the following directions: “Do not mention activities like implementation, design & testing, consulting, etc., which sound like work;” “Also do not use words like, work, activity, etc., in the invitation letter”; and “Please do not mention anything about contract rates.”
Infosys told its foreign nationals to inform U.S. Consular Officials that their destination in the United States was the same as that provided in the Labor Condition Application, notwithstanding the fact that Infosys knew that the destinations had changed.
Infosys wrote and revised contracts with clients in order to conceal the fact that Infosys was providing B-1 visa holders to perform jobs that involved skilled or unskilled labor that were otherwise required to be performed by United States citizens or required legitimate H-1B visa holders.
Infosys concealed the fact that B-1 visa holders were performing jobs that involved skilled or unskilled labor that were otherwise required to be performed by United States citizens or required legitimate H-1B visa holders by billing clients for the use of off-shore resources when, in fact, work was being performed by B-1 visa holders in the United States.
Infosys failed to maintain I-9 records for many of its foreign nationals in the United States in 2010 and 2011 as required by law, including a widespread failure to update and re-verify the employment authorization status of a large percentage of its foreign national employees.
The settlement agreement requires Infosys to make a payment to the United States of $34 million.
The agreement was largely predicated on Infosys’ cooperation with the United States during the investigation and on compliance measures taken by Infosys in the areas of B-1 and H-1B visas and I-9 documentation, both prior to and during the course of the investigation.
The settlement agreement requires additional auditing for I-9 forms; a reporting requirement for B-1 usage; an agreement to continue to use only detailed invitation letters, and the continued use of corporate disciplinary processes for employees that violate the immigration laws of the United States.
“We will not tolerate actions that mislead the United States and circumvent lawful immigration processes, whether undertaken by a single individual or one of the largest corporations in the world,” said Bales. “The H-1B and B-1 visa programs are designed and intended to protect the American worker; and we will vigorously enforce the requirements of those programs.”
David M. Marwell, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas, concurred, “This settlement against Infosys is the largest immigration fine on record.
“The investigation indicated that Infosys manipulated the visa process and circumvented the requirements, limitations, and governmental oversight of the visa programs. The investigation also showed that more than 80 percent of Infosys’ I-9 forms for 2010 and 2011 contained substantive violations.
“Ultimately, these actions by Infosys cost American jobs and simultaneously financially hurt companies that sought to follow the laws of this nation. Companies that misuse the visa process can expect to be scrutinized and held accountable.”
George M. Nutwell III, special agent-in-charge of the Houston Field Office, Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Department of State, said, “The Infosys investigation illustrates the unique role that DSS plays in investigating complex visa fraud cases that reach far beyond U.S. borders. DSS collaborates with our law enforcement partners and is committed to investigating and bringing to justice those who violate the law.”
The case was investigated and the settlement negotiated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shamoil T. Shipchandler, Alan R. Jackson, and J. Kevin McClendon, and special agents and attorneys from the Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.