GEORGIA

Two Florida business executives and a Florida-based company pleaded guilty Thursday in the Southern District of Georgia to charges related to their roles in a scheme to recruit and hire foreign nationals who were not authorized to work in the U.S.

According to court documents, Educational World Inc. (Ed World), a visa processing company based in North Point; and Larisa Khariton, 73, and Jon Clark, 71, also of North Point, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Georgia on April 8.

The 36-count indictment also contained allegations against Regal Hospitality Solutions LLC (RHS), a Louisiana-based staffing company, and seven current and former RHS employees.

Each defendant was charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States, including encouraging and inducing an alien to reside in the United States, as well as alien harboring, alien transporting, and visa fraud.

In addition, the RHS defendants were charged with wire-fraud-related offenses.

Ed World, as well as Khariton, and Clark (the Ed World defendants), please guilty Thursday to conspiracy to defraud and commit offenses against the United States.

According to the indictment and other court documents, the individual defendants enriched themselves by participating in a scheme to recruit and hire noncitizen laborers without authorization to work for RHS.

RHS provided hospitality-related businesses with laborers to work in housekeeping, retail, and foodservice positions, using noncitizens who were unauthorized to work in the United States to fill the positions.

In some cases, the RHS defendants arranged for and provided housing and transportation to the workers.

The defendants and other co-conspirators also encouraged and induced noncitizen laborers on expiring and expired J-1 exchange visitor visas to obtain B-2 tourist visas and to work in the U.S. for RHS, knowing that employing such laborers on B-2 visas was illegal. According to admissions made in connection with their guilty pleas, the Ed World defendants prepared and submitted applications for B-2 visas on behalf of the workers after charging noncitizen laborers approximately $650 per application.

The application contained false and misleading statements indicating the noncitizens intended to obtain the B-2 visa for the purpose of engaging in tourism.

In fact, the Ed World defendants knew that those noncitizens were already present in and intended to stay in the United States for employment, not tourism.

The indictment also alleges that the Ed World defendants submitted petitions for H-2B temporary work visas on behalf of defendant RHS that contained false and misleading information about the location where noncitizen laborers allegedly were to be employed.

In connection with their guilty pleas, the Ed World defendants admitted that they engaged in deceitful and dishonest conduct to impede and obstruct the functioning of, among other things, the H-2 nonimmigrant

visa program.

The Ed World defendants also admitted that they were paid a commission by RHS for noncitizens Ed World recruited to work for RHS, including those who were not authorized to work for RHS in the United States.

Khariton and Clark will be sentenced at a later date.  They face up to five years in prison.

Charges remain pending against defendant RHS and the individual RHS defendants who are considered innocent unless and until found guilty.

By Raul

Raul Hernandez is a former journalist. He has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than 30 years at the El Paso Herald-Post, El Paso Times, Press Enterprise in Riverside, California and the Ventura County Star in California. He was a court reporter for more than 20 years.

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