A federal judge imposed a more than $500,000 fine Thursday against a Dayton-area staffing company that played a role in Wright State University abusing foreign work visa applications.
Web Yoga Inc. was sentenced to pay a $566,000 fine in U.S. District Court by Judge Thomas Rose. The amount was determined before the sentence by prosecutors and the defense but needed the judges’ approval before becoming official.
The fine is a significant portion of the companies assets and is a fair punishment, defense attorney Jeanne Cors said during the sentencing.
During the hearing, prosecutor Kyle Healy and Cors both said Web Yoga Inc. has been forthcoming with investigators and provided them with information — including complete access to their computer systems.
Rose said while the charges are serious, Web Yoga has been upfront about their dealings with Wright State.
“It’s clear they have expended a substantial amount of effort to correct and prevent something from ever happening again,” Rose said.
Web Yoga’s legal troubles started during the summer of 2010, when an official with Wright State approached Web Yoga and proposed an arrangement whereby the university would source H-1B visa holders from overseas and subcontract them to Web Yoga for placement at client locations around the country, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Between 2010 and 2013, WSU entered into sponsored research contracts with Web Yoga. Wright State employed software engineers, obtained H-1B visas for the employees, and paid their respective salary and benefits as employees of the university, according to the DOJ.
The H-1B visa program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific specialty. Wright State was sometimes “exempt” from a cap limiting the number of H-1B visas it could obtain, unlike other types of organizations.
Wright State employed 24 foreign employees who were selected and approved by Web Yoga through H-1B visas, according to the DOJ. Web Yoga learned in 2012 that portions of the H-1B visa paperwork filed by Wright State with the federal government did not accurately reflect the work locations for the visa holders subcontracted to the company.
Web Yoga learned the university falsely stated the employees would be physically working on the university’s campus. The visa employees worked as consultants on behalf of Web Yoga in various cities throughout the country, including Atlanta, Orlando and New York City, according to the DOJ.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed not to pursue civil or criminal prosecution of Wright State since the university agreed to pay $1 million in three installments over two years. WSU also agreed to cooperate in any additional investigations stemming from the federal probe.
“Since 2015, Wright State has thoroughly addressed and corrected the issues raised by the H-1B investigation,” a statement from the school said. “Over the last four years, the university has made sweeping changes and has strengthened the university by implementing compliance and transparency reforms that are helping Wright State move forward with fulfilling its educational and research mission.”
Dayton Daily News reporters Max Filby and Josh Sweigart contributed to this report.
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