- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Two northern New Jersey men are accused of profiting from the fraudulent use of a federal visa program.

Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Hiral Patel and 31-year-old Shikha Mohta, both of Jersey City, each face charges of conspiracy to bring in and harbor aliens and obstruct justice. They were arrested Wednesday and were scheduled to make their initial court appearances later in the day.

It wasn’t known if either man had retained an attorney. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The men worked for separate companies that offered consultants to clients needing tech support. Both firms recruited foreign nationals and sponsored them for the visa program, which allows businesses in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field.

Prosecutors say the men falsely represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary. They say the men and others paid the foreign workers only when they were placed at a third-party client who contracted with their firms.

Prosecutors say the scheme provided the conspirators with a labor pool of inexpensive, skilled foreign workers who could be used on an “as needed” basis. The scheme was profitable, they said, because it required minimal overhead and the companies could charge significant hourly rates for the foreign workers’ services.

The conspirators earned a substantial profit margin when a foreign worker was assigned to a project and incurred few costs when a foreign worker was without billable work, prosecutors said.

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