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Avendula’s now-shuttered company, Professional Placement & Recruitment, Inc., was once located on Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside.
By Forum Staff
The owner and managing executive of a Woodside medical employment agency has been indicted for a visa fraud scheme that brought Filipino citizens into the country for financial profit, federal officials announced on Monday.
Rena Beduya Avendula, 50, was arrested and arraigned on Friday on five counts of visa fraud and conspiring to defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the United States. She was released on $75,000 bond.
According to the indictment, Avendula engaged in a scheme from October 2009 to February 2015 to bring Filipino citizens into the U.S. illegally by fraudulently claiming to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the foreign nationals would be employed in “specialty occupations,” thereby qualifying for H-1B visas. This nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to enter the country temporarily for the specific purpose of working for the employer in a “specialty occupation.” A “specialty occupation” requires certain specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s or higher level degree for entry into the occupation within the U.S. labor market. General registered nurses typically do not qualify as beneficiaries for H-1B visas. A sponsoring U.S. employer must submit a USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, along with supporting documentation, attesting that the visa beneficiary will be employed in a specialty occupation and paid at least the local prevailing wage paid to similarly qualified citizens and legal permanent residents working in the area. A limited number of H-1B visas are issued each year, federal authorities noted.
As alleged in the indictment, Avendula used her company, Professional Placement & Recruitment, Inc., to further the scheme. PPRI specialized in providing nursing care to elderly patients. Avendula, in an effort to secure some of the limited number of H-1B visas that are available each year, falsely stated that foreign nurses would be working in specialized nursing at prevailing wage rates. In fact, they were going to work as licensed practical nurses or RNs at significantly lower rates of pay, mostly at nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The defendant sponsored dozens of fraudulent applications and profited from the filing fees she collected from the nurses and from the healthcare facilities that her company.
If convicted, Avendula faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for the visa fraud charges, and 10 years’ imprisonment for each foreign national she allegedly induced to reside in the U.S. in connection with the conspiracy.