WOODSIDE, New York – A Filipina business owner was arrested and charged with five counts of visa fraud.
Rena Avendula, founder and president of now defunct medical staffing agency called Professional Placement and Recruitment Inc. (PPRI) in Woodside was indicted in a federal grand jury on Monday.
According to the US Department of Justice, between October 2009 and February 2015, Avendula allegedly created fake nursing jobs to illegally bring in Filipinos to the US via H-1B visa program.
Avendula and her co-conspirators allegedly placed the Filipinos in positions with manufactured job titles and exaggerated duties to get the visa approval.
She even charged beneficiaries up to $15,000 dollars if petitions were granted.
But some Filipino workers allegedly ended up unpaid.
The prospective employees were responsible for attorneys' fees and other costs associated with filing the H-1B petitions which are against US labor laws.
In a phone conversation with Avendula, she said the news about her were exaggerated and fake and deferred Balitang America to her lawyer.
Her lawyer, Atty. Samuel Jacobson, said in a phone interview that his client would not make any comment at this time, pending litigation.
Avendula is known for her defunct Payag Filipino Restaurant, located just below PPRI office.
The Sunnyside Post reported that Payag closed shop after becoming embroiled in a lawsuit against a former business partner.
If found guilty, the 50-year old businesswoman could face a maximum of 10 years in jail for the visa fraud and another 10 years imprisonment for each person she fraudulently brought into the US in connection with the visa fraud conspiracy.
Avendula was released on a $75,000 dollar bail.
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