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Document and Benefit Fraud
07/29/2013

Pennsylvania residents ordered to forfeit nearly $2 million in visa fraud scheme

PHILADELPHIA — Two Wilkes-Barre residents, the last defendants sentenced in a visa fraud scheme, were ordered to forfeit nearly $2 million Thursday in federal court in Scranton. The sentence resulted from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Fraud Detection and National Security. The Pennsylvania State Police assisted with the investigation.

Sudheer Bandi, 45, and Ram Challa, 44, both received sentences of time served. They were ordered to serve two years of supervised release and forfeit $1.9 million.

According to U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith, beginning in 2007, Bandi, Challa and others engaged in a visa fraud and money laundering scheme by falsifying documentation required to obtain H-1B visas and establishing "shell" companies to give the appearance that they were operating legitimate computer programming businesses.

Through the course of the scheme, checks were issued from bank accounts held by shell companies and deposited into accounts in the name of JMR Technologies Inc. The transfers created an appearance of revenue for JMR Technologies Inc., and a portion of the monies were paid to Challa and Bandi using checks that appeared to be paychecks issued by JMR Technologies Inc. Since Challa and Bandi appeared to be working full-time at JMR Technologies Inc., they were able to defraud the foreign labor certification program and maintain their H-1B visas.

The H-1B Specialty Occupation Program assists employers in competing in the global market by allowing them to access highly qualified individuals to work in special occupations on a temporary basis. In order to obtain such a visa, the employer must comply with strict regulations and obtain approval from various government agencies. In this matter, members of the conspiracy provided false and fraudulent information to government agencies in order to obtain H-1B work visas for themselves and other individuals. In effect, members of the conspiracy obtained H-1B specialty occupation visas to work as computer programmers and technicians, but were instead working as gas station clerks in the Wilkes-Barre area.

Bandi and Challa were charged in November 2009 and pleaded guilty in December 2009. Others charged in relation to this scheme include the following:

Ranga Junuthula, 43, of Montvale, N.J., was charged in April 2010 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit both visa fraud and money laundering. Junuthula was sentenced in October 2010 to 14 months in prison, $5,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Junuthula was ordered to forfeit $1.9 million.

Ramana Bandreddi, 43, of Herndon, Va., was charged in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the giving of false statements in naturalization, citizenship, or registry of aliens. Bandreddi was sentenced in January 2012 to one year probation and a $3,500 fine. Bandreddi was also ordered to forfeit $14,025.

Krishna Koteru, 44, of Parlin, N.J., was charged in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the giving of false statements in naturalization, citizenship, or registry of aliens. Koteru was sentenced in January 2012 to one year probation and a $3,000 fine. Koteru was also ordered to forfeit $21,865.68.

Ravi Kumar Nakirikanti, 40, of Malvern, Pa., was charged in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy provide false statements in naturalization, citizenship or registry of aliens. Nakirikanti was sentenced in March 2013 to one year probation and a $3,000 fine. Nakirikanti was also ordered to forfeit $122,340.

Venkat Varkala Reddy, 42, of Edison, N.J., was charged in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Reddy was sentenced in February 2013 to one year probation and a $2,000 fine. Reddy was also ordered to forfeit $1,496.

Raja Voggu, 43, of Devon, Pa., was charged in June 2012 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide false statements in naturalization, citizenship or registry of aliens. Voggu was sentenced in December 2012 to one year probation. Voggu was also ordered to forfeit $28,563.54.