A former Branson business owner pleaded guilty in federal court yesterday to a visa fraud scheme involving a labor leasing company he operated, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
John Voisine, 54, was the owner and president of Branson-based Santa Cruz Management Inc., which provided foreign workers with jobs in the Branson area through H-2B visas
, which allow foreign nationals to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs.
Voisine admitted to misusing the visas by sending Filipino workers to fill jobs in Myrtle Beach, S.C. In October 2007, he knowingly sent falsified or misrepresented documents to the U.S. Department of Labor that stated Santa Cruz Management would employ 306 Filipino workers in housekeeping positions at hotels and motels in the Branson area during 2008. Of those workers, however, 86 were illegally displaced by the company to fill labor contracts in Myrtle Beach from Jan. 1-July 21, 2008. According to the release, Santa Cruz Management wasn't approved as an H2-B employer for Myrtle Beach.
By pleading guilty, Voisine agreed to forfeit $169,661 to the government, representing profits garnered from the scheme. Santa Cruz Management earned $520,198 in gross revenue from the Myrtle Beach contracts, and about $350,537 in gross wages were paid to the workers.
Under federal statutes, Voisine could be subject to up to 10 years in federal prison, with a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing will follow the presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
According to the release, Santa Cruz Management was listed among the country's top five H2-B employers in a 2009 report released by the Department of Labor.
“(This) guilty plea sends a strong message to those who would intentionally submit false labor certification applications to the U.S. Department of Labor in order to illegally employ foreign workers. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of crime," said Daniel Petrole, deputy inspector general for the Department of Labor, in the release.
The investigation of Santa Cruz Management began after the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines, discovered the company had petitioned for a much higher number of foreign workers than in previous years. The embassy conducted a preliminary investigation that found foreign workers weren't employed at locations listed on petitions for H-2B visas.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Eggert and was investigated by the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.[[In-content Ad]]