Monday, April 11, 2016

H-1B Worker Exploited By Chicago Couple As Indentured Servant

A little more than three years ago, I published a blog post discussing how unscrupulous employers were exploiting the popular H-1B skilled worker visa program to essentially use non-immigrant workers intended to benefit from the program as indentured servants. Unfortunately, it's not an issue many of my fellow immigration attorneys give a damn about. It's all about processing as many cases as you can in a given year to maximize billings without regards to whether the clients you represent are abiding by the legal requirements for employing H-1B employees.

Today, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago filed charges against a couple who ran a physical therapy business, accusing them of bilking Medicare out of millions of dollars. Richard and Maribel Tinimbang conspired with other health care providers to bilk Medicare by paying kickbacks and bribes to obtain Medicare beneficiaries, ignored doctors who refused to certify patients as Medicare beneficiaries and falsified medical records to make it appear patients were in poorer health than they actually were. The Tinimbang's crimes didn't stop with defrauding Medicare. They also used the H-1B program to employ a non-immigrant worker from the Philippines as an indentured servant.

According to the press release announcing the charges against the Tinimbangs, the couple submitted fraudulent documents to the Department of Homeland Security to obtain an H-1B visa for a Filipino woman the couple claimed would be working as a business analyst for their physical therapy company. There's no shortage of business analysts in the American workforce so why the government would even approve such an H-1B petition for this type of work is worthy of further inquiry. When the woman arrived in the U.S. on her H-1B visa, the couple instead put the woman to work as a nanny and housekeeper. Instead of paying the wages the couple had agreed to pay the woman on the Department of Labor certification, the Tinimbangs demanded the woman sign a servitude contract working for $66 a day regardless of how many hours she worked for a term of seven years. Under the terms of the contract, the woman was required  to repay the Tinimbangs $25,000 if she left her employment earlier than the 7-year term of her contract.

In addition to the Medicare fraud-related claims, Richard Tinimbang has been charged with one count of conspiracy to obtain forced labor and one count of providing false statements in an immigration document. Maribel Tinimbang faces one count of conspiracy to obtain forced labor. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated problem, and the Obama administration has ignored complaints about the widespread abuse within the program. The H-1B program, as originally established, is an excellent work visa program, but the rampant abuses that the Obama administration has permitted to occur, allowing most offenders off with a mere slap on the wrist, has turned the program upside down. The government is deliberately refusing to enforce our nation's immigration laws in an effort to flood the country with as many immigrants as possible and to drive down wages Americans earn. It's incredible that this is occurring on a supposed liberal Democratic president's watch since Democrats profess to be more concerned about the conditions and well-being of workers.

If this case isn't bad enough, federal prosecutors in Chicago also indicted a physician earlier this month, who stands accused of falsifying medical exam reports for immigrants seeking to become naturalized citizens. Applicants for citizenship are typically required to pass a civics and English exam in order to be approved for naturalization. If a physician certifies than applicant is physically or mentally impaired, the civics and English examination portion of the application process can be waived. Dr. Jasmina Kostic is accused of fraudulently diagnosing patients so they could be relieved of the exam part of the process. Dr. Kostic and an assistant in his office are charge with making false statements in immigration documents.

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