Visa Fraudsters Who Recruited H-1B workers For the “Bench” Get 87 Months in Federal Prison

Posted: 3:35 am ET

Via DOJ/Northern District of Texas:

Atul and Jay Nanda Used Their Corporation, Dibon Solutions in Carrollton, Texas, to Commit Fraud Through H-1B Visa Program to Create a Low-Cost Workforce

DALLAS — Two brothers who were convicted at trial in November 2015 on felony offenses stemming from a conspiracy they ran to commit visa fraud to secure a low-cost workforce at their information technology consulting company headquartered in Carrollton, Texas, were sentenced today to lengthy federal prison terms, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker of the Northern District of Texas.

Atul Nanda, 46, and his brother, Jiten “Jay” Nanda, 45, were each sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara M. G. Lynn to 87 months in federal prison.  Each was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud, one count of conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens, and four counts of wire fraud.  The brothers, who have been on bond, were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Dibon Solutions is an information technology consulting company located on Chenault Drive in Carrollton; it is a family operation created by the Nanda family.  Atul and Jiten Nanda created, established, and ran the corporation that they used to commit fraud through the H1-B visa program.

“The H-1B visa program is a powerful and positive tool for businesses and foreign workers alike when properly used,” said U.S. Attorney Parker.  “When employers abuse the program, however, the foreign workers become a captive stable of cheap labor, victimized to the company’s financial benefit.”

“This federal investigation uncovered Dibon’s deeply rooted conspiracy of maximizing its profits at all costs,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Dallas.  “These two brothers created a highly profitable, and highly illegal business model at the extreme expense of the alien workforce that they recruited.  In addition, this same illegal business model operated at an unfair advantage to Dibon’s competition since it had a much lower operating overhead.”

The H-1B visa program allows businesses in the U.S., such as Dibon, to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field such as accounting, engineering, or computer science.

The Nanda brothers recruited foreign workers with expertise who wanted to work in the U.S.  They sponsored the workers’ H-1B visa with the stated purpose of working at Dibon headquarters in Carrolton, but, in fact, did not have an actual position at the time they were recruited and knew the workers would ultimately provide consulting services to third-party companies located throughout the U.S.  Contrary to representations made by the conspirators to the workers (and the government), Jay and Atul Nanda directed that the workers only be paid for time spent working at a third-party company and only if the third-party company actually first paid Dibon for the workers’ services.  Additionally, in Dibon’s visa paperwork, the conspirators falsely represented that the workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary, as required by regulation to secure the visas.

This scheme provided the conspirators with a labor pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an “as needed” basis.  The scheme was profitable because it required minimal overhead and Dibon could charge significant hourly rates for a computer consultant’s services.  Thus, the Nandas, as Dibon’s owners, earned a substantial profit margin when a consultant was assigned to a project and incurred few costs when a worker was without billable work.  This scheme is known as “benching.”  Dibon actively recruited H-1B workers for the “bench.”

The Nandas required the H-1B visa candidates to pay the processing fees that the law requires to be paid by the company. The Nandas attempted to hide this, however, by having the H-1B candidates pay the fees directly to Dibon either with cash or a check written to “Dibon Training Center.”

The three other defendants charged in the case, Siva Sugavanam, 37, Vivek Sharma, 48, and Rohit Mehra, 39, who each pleaded guilty before trial to one count of aiding and abetting visa fraud, were each sentenced earlier this month by Judge Lynn to two years’ probation.  Sugavanam was the lead recruiter for Dibon; Sharma acted as Dibon’s office manager; and Mehra recruited employees for the bench and transported benched employees to and from Dibon Headquarters.  All three had knowledge of and/or involvement in the filing of false documents with the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in securing recruits’ employment with Dibon.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, HSI and the U.S. Department of State.

Original announcement is posted here.

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#OrlandoSolidarity: Flowers, Vigils, Condolences From Around the World

Posted: 1:46 am ET

 

The deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 occurred on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The mass shooting which happened inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, is also the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in U.S. history to date. The casualties include 49 people dead and 53 wounded. The perpetrator, born and raised in New York to Afghan parents who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980’s was killed in a shootout with the police . Below are some expressions of solidarity with Orlando, and the United States from around the world.

US Embassy Paris, France

US Embassy Berlin, Germany

US Embassy Prague, Czech Republic

US Embassy Moscow, Russia

US Embassy London, United Kingdom

US Embassy Warsaw, Poland

US Embassy Copenhagen, Denmark

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

US Embassy Vilnius, Lithuania

US Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

US Embassy Madrid, Spain

Islamabad, Pakistan

US Embassy New Delhi, India

US Embassy Oslo, Norway

Meanwhile —

In Moscow, two men who left flowers at the US Embassy in Moscow in memory of the Orlando victims were reportedly detained.

And in Jamaica–

Back in DC —

 

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Secretary Kerry’s Travels: A Trip Every Month Since 2013; 165,808 Miles So Far in 2016

Posted: 1:16 am ET

The State Department says that the Secretary of State” travels to all corners of the world to do his job. His duties as Secretary include acting as the President’s representative at all international forums, negotiating treaties and other international agreements, and conducting everyday, face-to-face diplomacy.”  The latest update from state.gov says that Secretary Kerry has now visited 81 countries, has racked up 1,135,417 miles, spent 495 travel days and has a total flight time of  2,465.53 hours /102.7 days.  It looks like JK is sticking true to form of traveling every month of the year for the last three years since he became SecState in 2013.

From June 2-8, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Paris, France; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and Beijing, China. He was in Mongolia on June 5 where he meet with senior government officials, hosted a town hall with young leaders and attended a traditional Mongolian cultural festival, a mini-Naadam according to the US Embassy Mongolia. It is “the three games of men” which includes  Mongolian wrestlinghorse racing, and archery,  He tried his hand at archery but skipped the other two.

 

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FBI’s Misunderstanding of Diplomatic Tradecraft Just Latest in List of “Misunderstandings”

Posted: 1:39 am ET

We’ve covered Ambassador Robin Raphel’s story in this blog since it broke in November 2014. In March 2016, the Justice Department’s case fizzled and it declined to file charges against the former ambassador.

Previously, in the case of Xiaoxing Xi, the Temple university professor and head of the school’s physics department, federal authorities handling the case were said to have also misunderstood key parts of the science behind the professor’s work.  Mr. Xi’s lawyer said, “We found what appeared to be some fundamental mistakes and misunderstandings about the science and technology involved here.” The federal officials handling the Xi case did not know the science but went ahead and indicted him anyway.

They misunderstood science and technology, and now, we can add misunderstanding of the diplomatic tradecraft to the list of serious mistakes made by AG Loretta Lynch investigators.  When investigators don’t know what they don’t know, 40 years of service doesn’t mean anything. And for every hammer, everything is nothing but a nail.

WaPo’s David Ignatius writes a piece on when diplomats get punished for doing their jobs.

Via WaPo’s :

The case leaves behind some disturbing questions about how a diplomat with nearly 40 years’ experience became the focus of a career-shattering investigation — apparently without anyone seeking clarification from knowledgeable State Department officials about her assignment to open alternative channels to repair the badly strained relationship with Pakistan.

“If the Bureau had talked to senior people at State who were knowledgeable about her work, I believe they would never have launched this investigation,” argues Jeff Smith, a former CIA general counsel who was one of Raphel’s attorneys.
[…]
The case had a “chilling effect” on other diplomats, who feared they might be next, a half-dozen State Department officials told me. But Raphel’s colleagues stood behind her, even when the investigation was still active. Beth Jones, another former assistant secretary of state, organized a legal defense fund last summer. The fund raised nearly $90,000 from 96 colleagues and friends, many of whom, recalls Jones, voiced the fear: “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Diplomats often go last in our national-security parade. People cheer at ballparks when they see soldiers and sailors. They stand in line to watch movies about snipers and special-forces operators. But a diplomat’s reward for years in danger sometimes seems to be a congressional or FBI investigation for security lapses. That’s wrong. Raphel and many hundreds of colleagues deserve better support.

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State/OIG Audits Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical/High-Threat Posts

Posted: 12:50  am ET

Via State/OIG:

OIG conducted an audit of Local Guard Force Contractors at Critical- and High-Threat Posts  to determine whether (1) local guard force (LGF) contractors at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts are complying with general and post orders included in the contract; (2) LGF contractors at selected critical- and high- threat overseas posts provide invoices that comply with contract requirements; and (3) regional security officers at selected critical- and high-threat overseas posts perform oversight of the LGF contract in accordance with their Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) delegation memoranda.

Screen Shot

Summary of Findings:

OIG found that the guards working for the four LGF contractors at eight overseas posts (in four missions) complied with, on average, greater than 90 percent of security-related guard post orders observed. However, OIG identified deficiencies that were common across two or more missions related to access control procedures, equipment, unofficial reassignment of post orders, delivery and mail screening procedures, and reporting and investigating procedures. OIG also found that some guards were not receiving a proper number of breaks. Deficiencies generally occurred due to human error, lack of refresher training, and unavailable equipment. These deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of security procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract.

OIG also reviewed whether contractor invoices complied with contract terms and conditions and found that three of the four LGF contractors properly submitted invoices that included appropriate supporting documentation. However, the Mission REDACTED LGF contractor did not adhere to the contractually required invoice format or to the schedule for submitting invoices.

Finally, OIG found that assistant regional security officers (acting as CORs, alternate CORs, and Government Technical Monitors) generally conducted LGF oversight in accordance with requirements, which are to monitor, inspect, and document the contractor’s performance and, when necessary, apply negative incentives for not meeting performance standards. However, OIG found that not all assistant regional security officers (1) documented the contractors’ performance or (2) maintained complete COR files. As a result, oversight was not properly documented. Without a complete COR file, the Government may not have the necessary documentation to defend its position of contractor nonconformance with contract terms, potentially resulting in paying for services that do not meet contract requirements.

A few details:

Local guard force performance deficiencies, if not addressed, could negatively impact the performance of procedures that are intended to maintain post security and are required by the LGF contract. For example, the guards’ failure to conduct access control, delivery, and mail screening procedures in accordance with post orders may result in unauthorized personnel accessing the compound or visitors bringing prohibited items into the compound. Further, if guards do not carry equipment in accordance with post orders, REDACTED, leading to a delayed response to a possible threat. In addition, guards may not be able to react quickly to provide notice to the compound of imminent danger. Similarly, failure to investigate or report suspicious or unusual occurrences to all required parties could delay necessary officials from receiving proper warning, which in turn could delay post officials’ reaction time. Regarding the unofficial reassignment of post orders, guards who are assigned to perform the duties of others may be overwhelmed and unable to complete all reassigned duties. Finally, guards who do not receive regular breaks may be tired, which may lead to impaired judgment in the event a security situation occurs.
[…]
At the new consulate compound in REDACTED, guard post orders stated that guards should instruct contractors to have their irises scanned prior to receiving access badges. However, OIG observed that contractors were receiving badges before having their irises scanned. The LGF Commander stated that logistically, after employees pass through the WTMD [walk-through metal detector], the closest station is the badging station. Thus, it is understandable that guards may stop there first rather than at their scanning stations required.According to the Consulate General REDACTED Senior RSO, once a badge has been issued, contractors are granted official access to the new consulate compound. Thus, it is important that guards verify contractors via the iris scanner prior to issuing access badges.

Read the full report here (PDF).

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Burn Bag: We aren’t even trying to hide this stuff anymore? Bwaaah!

Via Burn Bag:

Job Title:    Visa Analyst    
Job Category:     Non-Exempt
Location:    Washington, DC    
Travel:    N/A
Level/Salary Range:    NEGOTIABLE    
Position Type:    Full Time
Date posted:    April 29, 2016

Job Description: Summary: Immediate full time requirement – CA/VO Visa Analyst – in support of the U.S. Department of State (DOS), Counselor Affairs/Visa Office. Final Top Secret Security Clearance required and candidate must meet eligibility criteria to be granted access to Sensitive Compartmented Information when/if required. The Visa Analyst provides support to the Government staff and prepares letters, reports, and specialized correspondence. A Government manager will provide day-to-day oversight and direction.   

“We aren’t even trying to hide anymore that we plan to supervise the employees of third party contractors [TPCs].  This insidious practice ultimately denies opportunities to government employees who miss out on training and conference experiences when the employees of third party contractors attend instead.  Why do we offer training to these employees of TPCs when they were supposed to already be trained?”

plsmakeitstop

Via media.riffsy.com

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#DefeatingDaesh News Front: Social Media as “Transformational” Tool, Covert Propaganda

Posted: 12:04  am ET

 

Meanwhile, across the pond —

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USCG Shanghai Hanscom Smith Marries Taiwanese Partner Eric Lu

Posted: 1:46 am PT
Updated: 5:06 pm PT

 

According to USCG Shanghai, Hansom “Hanscom” Smith, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, has been Consul General at the United States Consulate General in Shanghai since September 2014. He previously served at the United States embassies in Yaounde, Copenhagen, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Kabul, and Beijing. In addition, Mr. Smith has served in the Office of Japanese Affairs at the Department of State, and was team leader at the United States Provincial Reconstruction Team in Muthanna Province, Iraq. He has also worked at the American Institute in Taiwan. Mr. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and master’s degrees from the London School of Economics and Princeton University. His foreign languages are French, Danish, Khmer, and Mandarin Chinese.  CG Smith married his Taiwanese partner, Lü Yingzong (Eric Lu) in San Francisco.

 

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New @StateDept Authorization Bill Includes 3-Year Pilot Program For Lateral Entry Into the Foreign Service

Posted: 1:07 am ET
Updated: 4:15 pm PT

 

On April 28, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the bipartisan Department of State Authorization Act of 2017  (see SFRC Approves the Department of State Authorization Act of 2017 #DOSAA17). One provision of the bill is a 3-year pilot program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service. The question is how would this affect the midlevel ranks of the Foreign Service, some of whom are on their 3rd or 4th assignment and have yet to serve in their own cones or career tracks?

If this bill passes, the new lateral entry employees will be hired above FP-04.  We imagine the new hires won’t be doing entry level work on the visa lines at AIP countries and/or Mexico, Brazil, China, India, and Russia where staffing demands are high (see Foreign Service Staffing Gaps, and Oh, Diplomacy 3.0 Hiring Initiative to Conclude in FY2023). The pilot program employees will only be required to do one directed assignment according to the proposed bill, presumably one two-year tour. The bill does not provide a number on how many individuals should be included in this pilot program. We should note that while this bill cleared the SFRC, a similar authorization bill last year which also cleared the committee, did not survive the congressional obstacle course.  The State Department authorization bill for FY2016 was actually wrapped in the deal that made the Jacobson confirmation possible; it was also passed by the Senate on April 28. (Thanks A!) The FY2017 bill is currently pending in the Senate. 

SEC. 207. LATERAL ENTRY INTO THE FOREIGN SERVICE.

(a) POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES.—It is the policy of the United States to maximize the ability of the Foreign Service to draw upon the talents of the American people to most effectively promote the foreign policy interests of the United States.

(b) FINDING.—Congress finds that—

(1) the Foreign Service practice of grooming generalists for careers in the Foreign Service, starting with junior level directed assignments, is effective for most officers; and

(2) the practice described in paragraph (1) precludes the recruitment of many patriotic, highly- skilled, talented, and experienced mid-career professionals who wish to join public service and contribute to the work of the Foreign Service, but are not in a position to restart their careers as entry-level government employees.

(c) SENSE OF CONGRESS.—It is the sense of Congress that the Foreign Service should create an alternative hiring mechanism to permit mid-career entry into the Foreign Service for qualified individuals who are willing to bring their outstanding talents and experiences to the work of the Foreign Service.

(d) PILOT PROGRAM.—Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish a 3-year pilot program for lateral entry into the Foreign Service that—

(1) targets mid-career individuals from the civil service and private sector who have skills and experience that would be extremely valuable to the Foreign Service;

(2) offers participants in the pilot program placement in the Foreign Service at a grade level higher than FS–4 if such placement is warranted by their education and qualifying experience;

(3) requires only 1 directed assignment in a position appropriate to the pilot program participant’s grade level;

(4) includes, as part of the required initial training, a class or module that specifically prepares participants in the pilot program for life in the Foreign Service, including conveying to them essential elements of the practical knowledge that is normally acquired during a Foreign Service officer’s initial assignments; and

(5) includes an annual assessment of the progress of the pilot program by a review board consisting of Department officials with appropriate expertise, including employees of the Foreign Service, in order to evaluate the pilot program’s success and direction in advancing the policy set forth in subsection (a) in light of the findings set forth in subsection (b).

(e) ANNUAL REPORTING.—Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter for the duration of the pilot program, the Secretary shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees that describes—

(1) the cumulative number of accepted and unaccepted applicants to the pilot program established under subsection (d);

(2) the cumulative number of pilot program participants placed into each Foreign Service cone;

(3) the grade level at which each pilot program participant entered the Foreign Service;

(4) information about the first assignment to which each pilot program participant was directed;

(5) the structure and operation of the pilot program, including—

(A) the operation of the pilot program to date; and
(B) any observations and lessons learned about the pilot program that the Secretary considers relevant.

(f) LONGITUDINAL DATA.—The Secretary shall—

(1) collect and maintain data on the career progression of each pilot program participant for the length of the participant’s Foreign Service career; and

(2) make the data described in paragraph (1) available to the appropriate congressional committees upon request.

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Pro-ISIS Hackers Post Alleged “Kill” List With 43 Names Including @StateDept Names

Updated: 2:58 am ET

 

In August last year, we blogged about the Purported ISIS ‘Hit List’ With 1,482 Targets including State Department names. Now, according to  Vocativ, hackers with a pro-ISIS group calling themselves the United Cyber Caliphate have distributed a “kill” list on Monday that appears to include dozens of U.S. government personnel.

The list features 43 names of people linked to the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the departments of defense, energy, commerce and health and services. It also identifies the U.S. embassies in Santiago and Kathmandu—as well as the Department of the Navy in Gulfport, Mississippi—as targets.

The purported “hit list” last year reportedly included personnel data of more than 1,482 members of the U.S. military, NASA, the FBI, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the State Department.  Technology security expert, Troy Hunt,  wrote at that time that “nothing makes headlines like a combination of ISIS / hackers / terrorism!” and had taken a closer look with an analysis here.  How many of these names are from “pastes” that have been reproduced or recycled or new? Whatever the answer, this is a trend that will probably continue into the foreseeable future. Reports like this should be a periodic reminder to review your/your family members privacy settings and digital footprint regularly.

 

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