• Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

H-1B and Mountain View: Visa fraudster from China with alleged luxury tastes gets three years in prison

ByKelley Wheeler

Jun 28, 2020
h-1b-and-mountain-view:-visa-fraudster-from-china-with-alleged-luxury-tastes-gets-three-years-in-prison

A Beijing woman who used a Mountain View address as part of a fraud scheme to rake in millions while helping thousands of foreign nationals stay in the U.S. was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison.

Weiyun “Kelly” Huang, 30, pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Her case was prosecuted in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where she was alleged to have falsely claimed to have an office in furtherance of the scam.

“Immediately upon graduating from a United States-based university, (Huang) manufactured a scheme to defraud the United States for her own financial benefit and in direct violation of the United States immigration and criminal laws,” federal prosecutor Shoba Pillay said in the government’s sentencing memo. “(Huang) took her deep understanding of the United States visa system to exploit that system for her own benefit, while creating a significant risk to the United States.”

Prosecutors noted in a filing that Huang had graduated in 2013 from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance.

Among more than 2,500 Chinese nationals that Huang helped improperly apply to extend their stays in the U.S. was a purported spy for the Chinese government, federal authorities have alleged in court documents.

Authorities alleged Huang brought in at least $1.5 million through a scam involving H-1B visas and student work permits in which she used a Mountain View address to provide fake documents claiming foreign citizens were employed by her companies so they could stay in the U.S. Her credit card records showed “significant” spending at luxury retailers including Prada, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, according to the federal criminal complaint against her. A judge in February ordered her to forfeit $1.5 million, including the money from four bank accounts, two PayPal accounts and a Venmo account.

The H-1B visa, heavily relied upon by Silicon Valley technology giants, has been targeted for reform by the administration of President Donald Trump over reports of abuse. The administration has not followed through on two high-profile promises to change the visa program, but has dramatically increased H-1B denials to staffing and outsourcing companies and prosecuted a number of people alleged to have misused the program. The administration this week suspended entry of foreign nationals under the H-1B until the end of the year.

Huang, who first entered the U.S. in 2009 on a student visa, in 2014 was granted a spousal visa allowing her to live in the country with her husband, who was on a work visa, according to a court filing by federal prosecutors. On her visa application, she listed her employer as a company called “Findream.” It was that company, with an address on El Camino Real in Mountain View, that was central to the visa scam, authorities alleged in court filings.

Prosecutors had sought a five-year prison sentence. Huang’s lawyer had said in a court filing that sentencing guidelines called for between two years and 30 months in prison, and asked for a sentence of 14 months. Huang’s mother, in a letter filed in court, pleaded for a shorter sentence than the guidelines suggest. Her mother, Aiying Yan, claimed in the letter that tuition and expenses at the school amounted to $450,000 per year. The university estimates annual tuition and expenses for foreign students run at around $43,000 annually. Yan claimed she has “huge medical bills” and debt, and that she gave her daughter, graduating into a weak job market, permission to “start her own business in Silicon Valley,” in part to help pay off family debt. “The reason why Weiyun was charged with the crimes was because of her ignorance to the law and her urgency to make money,” the letter said.

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Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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