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Tech Consultant Pleads Guilty to 19 Felony Counts of Falsifying Employment Visas

A Cupertino man pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in San Jose to 19 counts of visa fraud in a scheme to obtain work visas for foreigners without job offers, federal officials said today.

Balarkishan Patwardhan, 53, admitted to the 19 felony charges contained in a grand jury indictment that he knowingly filed false applications to get H-1B visas for 19 applicants, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The applicants were Indian nationals, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

Patwardhan, as part of his agreement to plead guilty to the charges, will pay a $100,000 judgment equal to the fees he received from the visa fraud scheme, according to U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 18 before in U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davlia, according to prosecutors.

Felony visa fraud can result in a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but the judge may consider federal sentencing guidelines in the case, prosecutors said.

In his plea, Patwardhan agreed that from July 2008 to October 2010, as an employment consultant to technology companies, he falsified federal I-129 non-immigrant worker forms in an attempt to get H-1B visas for the 19 applicants, according to Haag.

He claimed that the applicants had been hired for technology positions by Gilead Sciences, a Foster City-based biopharmaceuticals company, when he knew the firm had not offered them any jobs, prosecutors said.

The false job titles Patwardhan listed on the forms included "Systems Analyst," "Software Engineer" and "Computer Systems Analyst" for salaries he said paid mostly in the range of $60,000-$65,000 per year, according to Haag.

The H-1B visa program requires that a U.S. employer certify that high-technology positions to be taken by the foreign applicants cannot be filled by U.S. citizens, ICE officials said.

The defendant made his initial appearance to face the charges last Friday, when a judge released him on $50,000 bond and other conditions, including that he not provide consulting services for technology firms or visa services, according to prosecutors.

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