MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — A federal grand jury has indicted several Myrtle Beach businesses, business owners, and business managers with visa fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
The announcement was made Thursday by Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart, The Diplomatic Security Service, and the Myrtle Beach Police Department.
Three arrests have been made so far and dozens of victims identified, according to officials, although authorities believe there may be more. Many of the victims were from Jamaica and the Philippians.
Raja Imran Younas, Syed Rehan Naqvi, and Jessica Voight were named in the indictment, along with their respective businesses, Grandeur Management Inc, Premier Laundry and Linen Supply LLC, Cenet USA LLC, Rida Naqvi LLC, and Hospitality Service Group LLC.
The conspirators allegedly submitted false and fraudulent visa petitions and misrepresented the positions, duties, pay rates, working conditions and living conditions to collect improper fees from people seeking H2B non-immigrant visas, according to the attorney’s office.
According to the indictment, the businesses used separate accounts to pay employees differently based on non-immigration status in the United States, according to the attorney’s office. They also allegedly promised full-time work and provided less than full-time work, paying the workers less than the amounts specified in the workers’ contracts and submitted on applications to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The indictment alleges the conspirators would maintain an established international “cultural exchange” program but instead placed the workers into inward-facing housekeeping jobs with no real opportunities for cultural exchange, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The indictment said Younas and Naqvi signed petitions with material misrepresentations. Voight and others conducted interviews with the workers over the internet and instructed them how to wire unlawful visa fees charged by the conspirators, according to the attorney’s office.
The maximum penalty for the defendants is 20 years in prison.
“Our nation’s visa system is an asset that provides much-needed resources to our communities and valuable opportunities to foreign workers,” DeHart said in the announcement. “Those in South Carolina who exploit the system and its workers will be brought to justice by our office, while we rescue and restore victim’s in the process.”
Myrtle Beach Police Department Chief Amy Prock said that the arrests demonstrates the department’s commitment and partnership with other law enforcement organizations.
“We are here to help and will always stand up for those who need us,” she said in the announcement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking anyone who may have been a victim to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.