A former north Texas school district administrator pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday, admitting to his role in an H-1B teacher recruitment scheme for which he falsified documents and received kickbacks, also impacting the lives of hundreds of foreign teachers who believed they were working legally in the United States.
Victor Leos, 63, who served as the human resources director for the Garland Independent School District from 1998 to 2013, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit false statements in connection with immigration documents, announced U.S. Attorney John Parker.
Leos admitted to misusing the H-1B visa program and participating in a criminal conspiracy with outside entities when he illegally recruited bilingual teachers from Mexico, Central and South America, plus the Philippines, to fill open teacher positions. However, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Texas, the jobs he filled from 2007 to 2012 were teaching positions that Garland ISD did not necessarily need.
He benefited financially from recruitment trips abroad and through receiving kickbacks from inflated fees to teach orientation classes, travel, as well as other kinds of remuneration.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted Leos knew the foreign teachers were unlikely to qualify for permanent status yet furthered the conspiracy when he knowingly signed and filed falsified applications for permanent employment certification (Form 9089) once these individuals were employed by the school district on H-1B temporary visas.
Specifically in 2012, between August 27 and December 6, Leos signed and filed 38 Form 9089s for Garland ISD in which he intentionally made false statements. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that on each of these forms, Leos certified all U.S. workers who applied for these teacher job openings were rejected for lawful job-related reasons, although Leos knew this was not the case.
In fact, he supported these falsehoods by creating recruitment reports which contained more forged documentation regarding the number of U.S. citizens who applied for the open teaching positions and the reasons why Garland ISD rejected these U.S. candidates. Leos submitted this paperwork to the U.S. Department of Labor along with the falsified Form 9089s.
By law, U.S. employers may recruit a foreign employee through the H-1B visa program when no qualified U.S. citizen can be found to fill a particular job opening, usually in a “specialty” field. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers 2016 report listed the top five specialty workers as computer-related, architecture, engineering, and surveying related; administrative specializations, education, and medicine. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services allows a foreign worker to stay in the U.S. on the H-1B visa program for three years, although under certain circumstances it can be extended to six years.
After Tuesday’s hearing, Dallas-based attorney Robert H. Rogers issued a statement on behalf of his client Leos. He said: “Mr. Leos apologizes to Garland Independent School District and to all of the teachers and students of the district for his conduct,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
As a result of Leo’s criminal conduct, many of the good teachers he recruited were denied citizenship and their lives in the U.S. were uprooted, said Rogers.
Leos returns to the courtroom on August 28 for sentencing. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. He also agreed to pay Garland ISD $317,482 in restitution.
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