Tesla Caught in Visa Whistleblower Case
Many of the False Claims Act’s (FCA) cases concern Medicare fraud, defense contractor fraud, and financial industry fraud, so we read about these topics often. One type of FCA fraud that you probably have not heard of, however, is visa fraud. We don’t mean the credit card: we’re talking about work visas for immigrant labor. A whistleblower has brought a case against some large automakers for B-1 visa fraud, one of which is high-profile Tesla.
What is B-1 Visa Fraud?
While many types of visa fraud exist, we are discussing a particular situation in which the federal government is defrauded out of money, making it a false claims situation. In this case, B-1 visas were used inappropriately and the government was not paid the money it would have received if the proper visas had been used.
B-1 visas do not allow a non-U.S. citizen to work here because they are not work visas. Instead, they are issued to non-citizens looking to negotiate contracts, travel to work-related conventions, meet with associates, and for other temporary business activities.
For a foreign person to work in the U.S., they are required to have an appropriate visa such as an H-1B or an L-1B. These visas have many regulations and restrictions regarding their issuance and also require the payment of higher fees to the federal government.
What Did Tesla and Others Do?
The whistleblower, Gregor Lesnik of Slovenia, filed his FCA case in July, 2016; the case was unsealed in September, 2017, which is why we are hearing about it now. Lesnik, who worked at Tesla under a B-1 visa, alleged that the German auto parts maker Eisenmann, plus another company, Vuzem (which supplied workers to Eisenmann), conspired with Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, and others to avoid paying the U.S. the appropriate visa fees. It is further alleged that foreign workers were paid $5 an hour, much less than the federal minimum wage, while they built manufacturing plants for the automakers.
Some additional points covered in the filing alleged the non-payment of Social Security and Medicare taxes, failing to identify cash payments that allowed the avoidance of Social Security and Medicare taxes, failing to document the workers, and falsely declaring that the workers were eligible to work in this country.
The illegal activities were revealed when Lesnik was injured while building a Tesla plant, breaking bones because he fell through a roof. He settled his claim with Tesla in 2015 for $550,000.
Previous Case: Infosys
B-1 visa fraud and its associated false claims are not new. In an October 2013 settlement involving the Indian IT company Infosys Ltd., a whistleblower brought allegations of falsifying documents. Some of the allegations were:
- Using B-1 visas for foreigners coming to work in the U.S., instead of the appropriate H-1B visas
- Telling the workers to lie to U.S. officials about their true purpose in coming to the U.S.
- Avoiding payment of the H-1B visa fees.
The case was settled for approximately $34 million, with the whistleblower receiving roughly $5 million for his part in the case.
The Whistleblower Lawyer.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case; government intervention can sometimes increase the chances of recovering reward money. Even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case without government involvement. Our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-803-454-1200 or, if you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.