In a March 24 press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced that it had charged a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and wire fraud.  The government alleges that Gee-Kung Chang, a Georgia Tech professor, and Jianjun Yu, a research director at ZTE USA—a subsidiary of ZTE Corporation, a partially state-owned Chinese telecommunications and information technology company, conspired to improperly bring Chinese nationals to the United States to serve as researchers at the company. The government alleges that Chang deceived both the United States and Georgia Tech in submitting visa applications as part of the scheme.

The United States permits entry to researchers around the world via the J-1 visa program.  The program allows participants to engage in work-and-study-based exchange programs with sponsor institutions, such as Georgia Tech.  J-1 visas are sought after around the world, and the government alleges that Chang and Yu’s actions prevented deserving candidates from participating in the program.  Instead of participating meaningfully in the program, the government alleges that the Chinese nationals who entered the United States performed work in the company’s New Jersey location that would have required a work visa rather than a J-1 visa.  The government further alleges that some of the Chinese nationals were even paid salaries by Georgia Tech while working in New Jersey.

Visa fraud is a form of immigration enforcement that remains consistent between administrations.  Regulations governing visas impact nearly every industry in the United States.  Companies and individuals that engage in unlawful conduct run the risk of criminal enforcement by the Department of Justice.  However, one aspect of these investigations that is often overlooked is the potential for civil False Claims Act enforcement against companies and individuals.  Different visas require different fees to be paid to the U.S. government in order to obtain the visa.  Defendants engaging in visa fraud often fail to pay the fees mandated for the type of visa that should have been obtained.  That failure can form the basis of a reverse False Claims Act action against the defendant.  So along with potential criminal liability, defendants could face treble damages stemming from their failure to pay.\

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white collar criminal investigations and False Claims Act litigation.  If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.