Bellevue CEO faces multi-year visa fraud charges

The CEO of two Bellevue information technology companies fled the U.S. after a complaint was filed.

Police arrested the CEO of two Bellevue information technology firms Aug. 28 on a charge relating to a multi-year visa-fraud scheme after he had fled the country.

Pradyumna Kumar Samal, 49, a citizen of India and CEO of Divensi and Azimetry in Bellevue, arrived at Sea-Tac International Airport that day and was arrested as he exited an international flight. U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes announced the arrest on Aug. 29.

The criminal complaint describing the visa-fraud scheme was filed under seal in April, for Samal’s actions that began around April 2014, court documents state.

Samal fled the United States soon after the complaint was filed, while the investigation was ongoing. Samal incorporated Divensi and Azimetry in 2010, which have provided IT services to corporate clients including “Fortune 500” companies, according to court documents.

Samal remained out of the country until last week when he was arrested by law enforcement. Samal made his initial appearance on the charges in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Aug. 29.

Samal’s two companies filed visa petitions for non-immigrant workers to work as software development engineers in the United States. The companies supposedly provided employees for major corporate clients but have been under investigation since 2015 for fraud relating to false visa petitions and fabricated supporting documents.

Court documents describe a scheme known as a “bench-and-switch.” According to a press release, the scheme exploits foreign-national workers, competes unlawfully in the market and defrauds the U.S. government.

The forged documents include forged letters and fraudulent work statements that contain the forged signatures of senior executives of two of Divensi and Azimetry’s clients, according to a press release. The applications were approved because of the false documents and Samal’s companies “benched” the foreign nationals by leaving them unpaid until they were placed at the actual end clients’ businesses.

Court documents provide evidence showing probable cause that Samal, as the CEO of Divensi and Azimetry, was heavily involved in the fraud and the attempts to cover it up.

The complaint specifically alleges that Samal received and reviewed the petitions before filing, attached the unauthorized signature and directed his employees to submit the forged application materials.

Samal allegedly did this to make it seem as if corporate clients agreed to use foreign-national employees named in the applications. Neither client agreed to do so and Samal allegedly lied to investigators and attempted to destroy the evidence, court documents said.

Samal’s companies brought in nearly 200 workers with forged applications and forced them to pay a partially refundable “security deposit” of up to $5,000 for the visa filings, even if they weren’t assigned to projects or provided an income, according to a press release.

Samal faces visa fraud charges, which are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Currently, the charges are only allegations and Samal is presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The case is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorney Siddharth Velamoor.