The US Department of Justice reported a North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

The DOJ charged Sairam Yeruva, a naturalized US citizen from India, and others with conspiring to submit false and misleading information to US Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of at least 183 initial H-1B petitions and at least 100 H-1B extension petitions that were filed on behalf of three IT services firms: Raleigh, NC-based Kronsys Inc. and Cygtec Inc., and Aurora Colo.-based Arkstek Inc.

According to the charging document, the initial H-1B petitions declared the foreign workers would be employed by the companies at specific work locations in or near Raleigh or Aurora for the sole purpose of developing in-house IT projects. The petitions also declared that the H-1B workers would be paid the prevailing wage throughout the entirety of their H-1B status with the companies. However, the workers provided IT consulting services to end clients throughout the US. Further, many of the workers were benched without pay while they waited for their initial assignments to begin or while they were in between end client assignments.

The falsifications brought in at least $26.2 million in revenue for three firms.

The H-1B program is intended to assist employers who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the United States workforce. It authorizes these employers to temporarily employ foreign workers as nonimmigrants in specialty occupations. Speculative employment is not permitted under the H-1B program, as the program is not intended as a vehicle for foreign workers to engage in a job search, or for employers to bring in foreign workers to meet possible workforce needs.

Yeruva, whose Jan. 7 guilty plea was announced this week upon the end of the government shutdown, faces penalties of up to five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and a term of supervised release following any term of imprisonment.