J’cans among dozens on work visas allegedly scammed
MYRTLE BEACH, South Carolina (AP):
Several hospitality companies in one of South Carolina’s most popular beach towns are accused of scamming dozens of foreign workers on work visas, including Jamaicans, about their pay and living conditions, according to an indictment released this week.
Three people working for Grandeur Management and related companies in Myrtle Beach now face federal charges of visa fraud, the US Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina said in a news release Thursday.
The company allegedly lied to workers who had arrived in town on a visa programme about what kinds of jobs they would have, how much they would get paid and what their living conditions would be, prosecutors said.
Grandeur consistently paid the workers less than the amounts stated in their contracts, authorities said. Investigators with the US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service and the Myrtle Beach Police Department found the company also lied about maintaining a cultural exchange programme to sponsor Q-1 visas for employees, then placed those workers in housekeeping jobs instead.
Dozens of victims have been identified, with “perhaps hundreds” more expected in the investigation that has already spanned multiple years, acting US Attorney for South Carolina Rhett DeHart said. Many of the victims came from Jamaica and the Philippines.
Police have already arrested Grandeur Chief Executive Raja Imran Younas, Syed Rehan Naqvi of Rida Naqvi LLC, and Grandeur employee Jessica Voight.
According to authorities, Younas and Naqvi charged unlawful fees to visa-seekers who wired money they then pocketed, according to authorities.
Each of the three faces up to 20 years in prison on all charges.
Russell Long, listed as Younas’ attorney, was not immediately available for comment Friday afternoon.
Grandeur has previously faced allegations of mistreating foreign employees.
In 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint with the US State Department for students from the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, who were allegedly misled by their visa sponsor before being placed with Grandeur Management, according to the The Sun News.
Two workers from the Philippines also have filed complaints against the company under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in recent years. Both workers accused Grandeur of making threats against their immigration status when they tried to raise concerns that they were not receiving overtime pay.
One of those complaints was dismissed after a settlement agreement; the other remains pending in federal court.