When times get tough, Immigration fraud is on the rise. Pretty disturbing news. A Brazilian husband and wife were sentenced Thursday for their involvement in a $55 million visa fraud scheme, following an investigation led by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Wilson, 63, and Valeria Barbugli, 57, were sentenced to 18 and 24 months in federal prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Mary S. Scriven, Middle District of Florida. The couple was convicted of conspiracy, visa fraud and alien smuggling as part of an elaborate scheme which allowed illegal aliens to work at jobs that normally would have been filled by U.S. citizens.
As part of their sentence, the court also imposed a money judgment in the amount of $55 million, which represents the illegal proceeds generated during the course of the conspiracy.
According to court documents, the Barbuglis used a temporary labor staffing conglomerate that supplied workers to more than 160 hotels. Through their complex visa fraud and alien smuggling activities the defendants allowed more than 1,000 illegal aliens to fraudulently enter and remain in the United States using fraudulently obtained H-2B employment-based visas. An H-2B visa is granted to certain qualified foreign workers seeking temporary employment in the United States.
As part of the conspiracy, the Barbuglis submitted false documentation to the government and manipulated the H-2B visa process. The Barbuglis submitted altered hotel contract agreements to conceal their activities and falsely reported that U.S. workers had been hired when they had not. The Barbuglis also falsely claimed that no payments were being collected from the alien workers, when in fact the workers had actually paid between $350-$750 each to be placed on the fraudulent H-2B visa petitions.
The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program permits employers to hire foreign workers to come to the U.S. and perform temporary nonagricultural work, which may be one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent and there are no qualified and willing U.S. workers available for the job. Note that this visa is not available for “temporary” agencies or other work placement agencies.