IT firm owner gets four years for H1-B fraud

Ritu Jha

An owner of an IT employment service company in Fremont, California was sentenced to four years in prison for submitting fraudulent applications for H-1B work visas, and for mail fraud, witness tampering and related crimes.

Sunitha Guntipally, 44, owner of DS Soft Tech and Equinett, was indicted last year on 33-counts indictment by a federal grand jury along with her husband Venkat Guntipally, 49, and business partners Pratap “Bob” Kondamoori, 56 and colleague Sandhya Ramireddi, 58.

Guntipally has been ordered to self-surrender on Monday, February 5 next year.

Earlier this year, Judge Luch Koh sentenced Kondamoori to 20 months’ and his sister Ramireddi to 14 months’ imprisonment.

Venkat Guntipally is to be sentenced on March 21, 2018.

The four defendants allegedly used three California corporations to orchestrate the submission of more than 100 fraudulent H-1B visa applications.

According to a press note from US Attorney Brian J Stretch, Guntipally admitted that between approximately 2010 and 2014, she and her co-defendants submitted more than 100 additional fraudulent petitions for foreign workers to be placed in companies that either did not exist themselves or never received the workers.

She also admitted of obstructing justice, and directed her co-defendant to do the same, to mislead agents and conceal the conspiracy.

The applications were designed and intended to create a pool of H-1B beneficiaries who then could be placed at legitimate employment positions in the Northern District of California and elsewhere, the note said.

Through this scheme, Guntipally and her co-conspirators gained an unfair advantage over competing employment-staffing firms. As a result, she and her husband earned money from these downstream companies for themselves and their companies, it said.

According to the indictment, Venkat and Sunitha Guntipally founded and owned two employment-staffing companies for technology firms, DS Soft Tech and Equinett.

Venkat served as the president of both companies, and Sunitha Guntipally was vice president.

The indictment further alleges Kondamoori is the founder and owner of SISL Networks, and his sister Ramireddi, based in Pleasanton, California, worked as the human resources and operations manager for all three firms.

Kondamoori, based in Nevada, lied to federal law enforcement officers investigating the visa fraud conspiracy, claiming that he along with other company SemSolar was developing a product called “Eftia Master.Scribe” for which he required H-1B workers; that Softbank, Sprint’s parent company, was both an investor in SemSolar and a business partner of SISL Networks; and that Kondamoori was a general partner of Focus Ventures.

According to the indictment, all of the claims were false.

Meanwhile, the US District Judge Lucy H. Koh on sentencing Guntipally, stated that the defendant’s crime does “damage to the rule of law.”

The defendant’s conduct “undermines respect for our legal immigration system” and does “tremendous damage to our institutions and affects the rights of others to immigrate to the United States,” the note quoted her as saying.

There have been other cases of misuse and fraudulent use of H-1B non-immigrant classifications for skilled foreign workers.

In July, Sridevi Aiyaswamy, 50, of San Jose, pleaded guilty before Judge Lucy H. Koh, admitting that between April 2010 and June 2013 she made many false statements, and submitted more than 25 false documents to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. She was charged with 34 counts of visa fraud.

Another IT staffing company based in Fremont, California, Dynasoft Synergy, Inc., has been under investigation since March and its co-owner CEO Jayavel “Jay” Murugan, 46, and Syed Nawaz,40 charged with using false documents and for conspiring to commit visa fraud.

Nawaz has allegedly worked for such well-known Bay Area companies as Cisco, Brocade, and Equinix.

That indictment alleges that the defendants aimed to create a pool of H-1B beneficiaries in the United States that they could later provide with legitimate employment.

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