An executive gets arrested in a dispute over whether his workers are full-time or part-time.
(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)
Finding good people isn’t easy, particularly in the information technology field where skilled labor is critical. I know this–my firm is also in this field.
Sowrabh Sharma is the part-owner of two IT firms in New Jersey and Ashburn, Va. In our business, it’s not unusual to go from project to project. If you ask anyone who runs an IT firm you’ll likely hear that one of our biggest challenges is how to keep our employees busy (i.e. profitable) when the firm is between projects and there’s not enough work.
Sharma thought he came up with an answer.
But it wasn’t legal.
At least, that’s what federal prosecutors are saying. According to this report from Fox News, they’re accusing Sharma (and his former head of finance) with three counts of conspiracy. The charges stem from falsifying H-1B visa applications.
The H-1B visa program is very popular with tech companies because it gives them the opportunity to temporarily employ skilled engineers and software developers who are not U.S. nationals. There are only a limited amount of these visas available each year and big companies, particularly those in Silicon Valley, compete hard for them.
Allegedly, Sharma recruited recently graduated foreigners who wanted to stay in the U.S. and who were also skilled in technology. On the visa applications, he represented that they were full-time employees. But in reality, they apparently weren’t. He allegedly paid them only when customers paid him for their services. And when there was no work, he didn’t pay them.
That’s not an employee. That’s a contractor. And if it is true that’s a no-no.
To support the alleged scam, prosecutors claimed Sharma generated false payroll records and, when audited, provided “fabricated leave or vacation slips for the time periods that the foreign workers were not working, to conceal that they were not paid as required by federal law.”
Sharma could go to jail for 13 years if convicted of all accounts.