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Visa Fraud Ring Busted, Feds Say

HOUSTON (CN) - Five men face criminal charges of conspiring to fraudulently obtain work visas, which they sold to more than 80 people from India for $20,000 to $80,000 apiece. Alberto and Bernardo Pena and their Brownsville-based visa-facilitation firm AMEB Business Group applied for the visas on behalf of a Louisiana construction company, but none of the immigrants ever worked for the company, the U.S. Attorney's office said. The Indians came to Houston, paid $20,000 to $80,000 for their visas, then scattered throughout the country, prosecutors said.

The Penas and AMEB Business Group sought visas for Indian workers who would work for a construction company allegedly based in New Iberia, La., prosecutors say.

The Penas were assisted by Mack Patel of Fort Worth and Rakesh Patel of Houston, who found Indian citizens willing to pay for the visas, according to the grand jury indictment.

The defendants even traveled to India to assist people with the visa application process, prosecutors. They claim the ring was assisted by Mexican citizen Marte Othon Villar, and construction company owner Charles Viscardi.

Charges include conspiracy, money laundering and inducing illegal immigration, punishable by long terms in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

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