On Monday, a local South Florida businessman, Michael V. Lombardi, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud by obtaining fraudulent temporary work visas for workers from the Philippines for jobs in the United States. Lombardi was arrested back in September on charges that allege he fraudulently obtained visas for workers from January 2009 up until April 2010. Lombardi is the owner of U.S. Opportunities, a company that provides temporary workers from overseas to U.S. companies.

Lombardi’s indictment stated that the conspiracy involved recruiting workers from overseas and asking companies to request more workers than needed so that Lombardi could divert workers to areas not listed on their visas. Twelve workers were approved for jobs in Virginia and Colorado but were actually sent to Biloxi.

Upon pleading guilty, Lombardi agreed to forfeit $41,480 plus about $8,500 seized from two checking accounts. He faces up to five years in prison and  a $250,000 fine at sentencing which is set for August 6.

Leading fraud expert, Linda Webb, AKA The Fraud Dog, says that fraud can be found in almost any industry, as long as the loot is plentiful. The impact of visa fraud can affect many industries, including all layers of government. Often times people are smuggled into the United States, given fake work visas, only to work migrant, construction, and other labor intensive jobs. Modern day slave labors, or what we call “labor brokers” pay good money to get illegal workers into the work force for cheap labor. We saw a lot of this practice during the gulf oil spill, where illegal workers were used to pick up oil sludge on the gulf shore in the scorching, summer sun.

There are many layers of kickbacks along the way. The employee is typically paid cash, “under the table” compensation.  For example, the worker is charged with having to pay large sums of cash to the fraudster for the visa. Then the next step is being owned by a labor broker for a year and having to live in unsanitary living conditions. The worker can be charge for many things, like having to pay a transport person to take them to and from their job.  The worker often times may even be paid below the federal wage law, as multiple people are paid off, like general contractor, subcontractors, insurance agents/brokers, etc.

Insurance companies don’t get their insurance premiums for under-reported payroll for workers’ compensation insurance and state governments don’t get their unemployment taxes. The federal government will not get social security tax or Medicare tax. Most importantly,  it takes jobs away from others in America that are unemployed. The illegal worker is expected to work long hours and sometimes in unsafe work conditions that violate OSHA standards. Even when the employee is hurt, they are often times are disposed of like a piece of trash. Bosses on job sites do not care as there are illegal workers waiting in wings to join the ranks. Everyone suffers by this type of fraud says Linda Webb, The Fraud Dog.

To report potentially fraudulent activity, contact Linda Webb aka The Fraud Dog, leading fraud expert at 1-855-FRAUD-DOG.

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