Silicon Valley staffing agency boss charged with H‑1B visa fraud

CEO and pal faked letters from Cisco, Brocade, Stanford, prosecutors claim

Jayavel Murugan, CEO of staffing agency Dynasoft Synergy, is accused of faking letters from Silicon Valley bosses so he could ship cheap foreign workers into America.

Murugan, 46, and his associate Syed Nawaz, 40, are formally charged [PDF] with 26 counts of visa fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The charges were filed in Oakland, California, earlier this month; if convicted, Murugan and Nawaz face potentially years behind bars.

According to prosecutors, between 2010 and 2016, the pair submitted dodgy I-129 forms and other paperwork on behalf of H-1B visa applicants – these H-1B visas are golden tickets to life in America, and are reserved for highly skilled foreigners.

It is alleged the duo deliberately forged letters from big-name companies confirming the employment of more than a dozen foreigners, paving the way for these folks to come to America to work. These "end client" letters insisted the applicants would be working on-site for specific employers in regular jobs.

Those jobs never existed, though, it is claimed. Once stateside, the aliens were placed at businesses other than the ones that supposedly sponsored them, it is alleged.

Specifically, Murugan and Nawaz blagged the visas by lying that applicants had been hired by networking equipment makers Cisco and Brocade, and Stanford University, it is claimed. The pair profited from the scheme, according to prosecutors.

We're told Nawaz, of Santa Clara, California, did not work at Dynasoft, although two of his family members were staffers there; Nawaz was previously employed at Cisco, Brocade, and Equinix. Murugan, of Fremont, California, owns and controls Dynasoft, which has an office in India, according to court documents. Dynasoft describes itself as a business intelligence outfit, which is a fancy way of dressing up an employment agency.

The abuse of the H‑1B process has been well documented: rather than draft in the world's top talent, a good chunk of holders of the visa turn out to be low-skilled and treated as relatively inexpensive thralls. President Trump promised to tackle the system once he came to power, although such efforts are now on the back burner, it seems.

Meanwhile, technology giants are lobbying hard for the system to remain unchanged – or even expanded. These corporations love H-1B workers because they have to pay them, at a minimum, $60,000 a year and usually not much more than that – which is peanuts in a valley where engineering and computer science graduates start off on $100,000 or more.

Also, bosses can treat H-1B workers as modern-day serfs who are virtually shackled to their employers. If a company terminates an H‑1B visa worker, the staffer and any family they have in the country must leave within roughly a month. This makes them very unlikely to complain about anything or demand more money, and make them willing to work long hours in exchange for living in America and the chance to get a coveted green card, which endows permanent resident status in the US.

If the government's allegations are proven true, Murugan and Nawaz exploited the system to make a fast buck. Other Silicon Valley firms may face charges if they can be shown to be accomplices. ®

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