Suffolk man charged in visa scheme

Published 9:46 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A 48-year-old Suffolk man is among 22 foreign nationals and U.S. citizens indicted by a federal grand jury in what the government is calling a “massive international visa scheme.”

Otis Martin, a U.S. citizen and resident of Suffolk, was charged in connection with an immigration scheme alleged to have been in operation since March 2001. The grand jury handed down a 74-count indictment, though the document was unavailable at press time.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Norfolk, “the defendants and co-conspirators carried out a conspiracy involving visa and asylum fraud, marriage fraud, making fraudulent statements under oath and filing fraudulent documents to obtain foreign labor visas for hundreds of employees.”

Email newsletter signup

The government charges that the organization submitted visa petitions for more alien workers than were needed by its client hotels or businesses and that most of those brought in illegally were sent to work at hotels or businesses other than the ones listed on their visas, often in states other than Virginia.

“The aliens were encouraged or induced to enter or reside in the United States and transported and shielded from detection for commercial advantage and private financial gain,” the press release states.

Seventeen of the 22 defendants are foreign nationals, with all but one originally from Eastern Europe — including Belarus, Latvia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Russia, Estonia and Hungary. Another foreign national is from Jamaica.

It was unclear at press time exactly what charges Martin faces or what was his alleged involvement in the scheme.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security worked with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security on the investigation, along with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Norfolk Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Virginia Beach Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph DePadilla and Stephen Haynie are prosecuting the cases for the government.