Thursday, June 6, 2019

USCIS Assists in Conviction and Sentencing of Visa Fraud Perpetrator

ORLANDO, Fla.A federal court in Orlando sentenced Marvin Mushia Smith to 10 months’ imprisonment for visa fraud after a multi-year investigation by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Orlando’s Homeland Security Investigation team (HSI) and various other U.S. federal agencies. Mushia Smith filed numerous visa requests of alleged “required” temporary nonagricultural workers, called the H-2B visa, between 2014 and 2018.

U.S. District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza sentenced Mushia Smith, 41 years of age. Smith had pleaded guilty on August 14, 2018, and was sentenced last Friday.

According to court documents, in April 2017, members of Orlando’s Homeland Security Investigation’s (HSI) Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force (DBFTF) identified numerous requests for abnormal numbers of alleged “required” foreign temporary nonagricultural workers, called “H-2B” visas. The task force linked all of these requests to Smith, a naturalized U.S. citizen, originally from Jamaica. Further investigation revealed that from at least as early as Dec. 16, 2014, through March 15, 2018, Smith filed fraudulent labor certification packages and fraudulent immigration petitions with the Department of Labor (DOL) and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which resulted in the admission of more than 300 nonimmigrants (H-2Bs), all from Jamaica. 

The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.  To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, a petitioner (Smith, in this case) must establish that, amongst other things, there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work, and that employing H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. There is a statutory numerical limit, or “cap,” on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct. 1 - March 31) and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30).

In his fraudulent submissions to DOL and USCIS, Smith claimed to have labor contracts with various hotels, construction companies, and/or landscaping businesses for temporary work in the United States. In reality, many of his H-2B petition packages used fake temporary employment contracts as supporting evidence to exhibit the need for the foreign workers in the United States. USCIS approved all 11 of Smith’s H-2B petitions, in large part, because of the fraudulent contracts supplied by Smith. Each of the approved petitions allowed Smith to bring in a different amount of alien workers. On average, each petition allowed him to bring in about 30 workers. Furthermore, law enforcement interviewed several of the H-2B workers admitted under Smith’s fraudulent H-2B packages and they said they had worked at different job sites and performed different duties than those indicated on the petitions. 

“Foreign worker visa fraud can have serious national security, public safety, and economic consequences,” said HSI Orlando Assistant Special Agent in Charge David J. Pezzutti.  “This case represents the importance of the HSI Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force’s continuing commitment toward protecting the integrity of the immigration system and preserving jobs for U.S. citizens and others lawfully authorized to work.”  

“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to making sure that those who commit visa fraud face consequences for their criminal actions,” said Frederick Stolper, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), Miami Field Office. “The strong relationship we have with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida and other law enforcement agencies around the world is vital towards ensuring the integrity of U.S. travel documents and protecting greater U.S. interests.”

This case was the culmination of the combined investigative efforts of HSI, DSS, DOL-Office of the Inspector General, Customs and Border Protection, and USCIS-Fraud Detection and National Security as a result of HSI’s Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force. HSI created the DBFTF to combat visa fraud and other similar crimes by building upon existing partnerships with other federal and state law enforcement investigators with document and benefit fraud expertise. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brandon M. Bayliss and Christina R. Downes, both on assignment from the Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, ICE.

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