Ohio Inspector General investigating Wright State for H-1B visa issues

The Ohio Inspector General’s office is investigating Wright State University for matters related to H-1B visa fraud that may have occurred at the school, according to the WSU board of trustees agenda for today.

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The board will respond to an inquiry from the Ohio Inspector General on an immigration investigation that has dogged the university for more than two years. The OIG has requested access to material WSU provided to the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and U.S. Attorney’s office concerning potential immigration law violations, according to a resolution trustees will consider.

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In 2015, a federal investigation came to light of WSU’s potential misuse of a the federal H-1B work visa program, which led to four administrators being suspended; two remain on paid leave.

This newspaper revealed that Wright State sponsored 19 foreign workers who came to the U.S. to work at an area information technology staffing company that paid the workers less than what local graduates typically make for similar IT work. Immigration experts say it’s possible the arrangement violated immigration laws designed to prevent staffing agencies from trafficking in cheap labor from overseas.

The inspector general’s request brings to light a third probe of H-1B visa use at WSU.

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The inspector general’s office would not comment on any investigation at Wright State.

“It’s a policy of the office not to discuss whether or not an investigation is being engaged in or provide updates or statuses of investigations,” said Joshua Beasley, investigative attorney with the inspector general’s office.

The OIG has a broad mandate under state law. It has authority to investigate not only potential violations of law, but also actions by state or public university employees that are “not in accordance with … such standards of proper governmental conduct as are commonly accepted in the community and thereby subverts, or tends to subvert, the process of government.”

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In April, WSU trustees asked the university’s attorney to make referrals for further investigations to the state out of “an abundance of caution,” said Doug Fecher, vice chairman of WSU’s board of trustees. The OIG’s request is likely the response to those referrals, Fecher said.

“I think this is just a step in the process. I don’t think it signals any change,” Fecher said. “I think the investigation is in a very early stage and they’re still gathering information.”

Fecher said he doesn’t not know who was mentioned in the referrals or how many WSU’s attorney made.

“For any organization, there’s uncertainties. I think the outcome of this investigation is an uncertainty we’re worried about,” Fecher said. “But, I think what the board is most worried about is doing the right thing,”

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