Wednesday, June 21, 2017

U.N. Employee Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Fraud Offenses In Connection With Employment Of Bangladeshi Domestic WorkerU.N. Employee Charged In Manhattan Federal Court With Fraud Offenses In Connection With Employment Of Bangladeshi Domestic Worker

  Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Christian Schurman, Acting Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”), announced the arrest of HAMIDUR RASHID, an economist working at the United Nations Secretariat ‎in the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on fraud and theft charges in connection with RASHID’s hiring of, and obtaining a visa for, a Bangladeshi national employed as a domestic worker at RASHID’s home in New York, New York.  RASHID was arrested today and will be presented this afternoon in Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV.       
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said:  “Domestic workers brought to our country from abroad find themselves in a vulnerable position, far from home and facing a huge power imbalance relative to their employers. As alleged, Hamidur Rashid, an employee of the United Nations, took cruel advantage of his position of power, grossly overworking his domestic worker while paying her well below the wage he reported to the State Department and to the U.N.  Rashid also allegedly obtained the visa for his domestic worker through lies about the wages he intended to pay her, and once she was brought here, he allegedly set up a sham bank account to spend for himself the wages he purported to pay her.  In this country, even the most powerless have the same human rights as the most powerful.  And everyone is subject, in an equal way, to the rule of law.  We thank the Diplomatic Security Service for their commitment to this important principle of justice.”
Acting DSS Director Christian Schurman said:  “As the lead agency in this investigation, the Diplomatic Security Service demonstrated its commitment to maintaining the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of visitors to the United States. We pursue those who fraudulently use domestic worker visas, like the G-5, to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain.  Diplomatic Security Service’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.” 
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:
Employees of international organizations such as the United Nations (the “UN”) may obtain G-5 visas for their domestic workers if they meet the requirements set out in 9 Foreign Affairs Manual (“FAM”) 41.21 and 41.22.  As part of the application process, an interview of the domestic worker at the embassy or consulate is required.  Proof is required that the applicant will receive a fair wage by U.S. and State Department standards.  To apply for a G-5 visa, the visa applicant must submit an employment contract that must include, among other things, the number of hours of work per week and the hourly wage, which must be the greater of the minimum wage under U.S. federal and state law, or the prevailing wage.  The employment contract must also state that, after the first 90 days of employment, all wage payments must be made by check or electronic transfer to the domestic worker’s bank account, to which the employer should not have access.
RASHID made false promises to a Bangladeshi national (“Witness-1”), who was to be RASHID’s domestic employee at an address in Manhattan, New York, about Witness-1’s salary in order to procure her employment in the United States.  In order to obtain a G-5 visa for Witness-1, RASHID caused false statements about Witness-1’s salary to be transmitted to the State Department in the form of an employment contract (the “First Employment Contract”) that satisfied the State Department’s requirements for payment of a lawful wage.  The First Employment Contract stated, among other things, that RASHID would pay Witness-1 $420 per week, which equates to a rate of $10.50 per hour, that the prevailing hourly wage for domestic employees in the New York City metropolitan area is $9.63, and that Witness-1 was not to work in excess of eight hours a day, five days a week.
RASHID then entered into a second employment contract (the “Second Employment Contract”) with Witness-1 with a substantially lower rate of pay, which did not meet State Department requirements for payment of a lawful wage.  The Second Employment Contract stated, among other things, that RASHID would pay Witness-1 $290 per week, which equates to a rate of $7.25 per hour.
Witness-1 worked for RASHID as a domestic employee in New York, New York, from approximately January 2013 through approximately October 2013.  Notwithstanding the terms of the First Employment Contract, Witness-1 worked far more than 40 hours per week, and Witness-1 was paid substantially less than what was required by both the First Employment Contract and the Second Employment Contract.  In order to deceive the UN into believing that RASHID was paying Witness-1 a lawful wage, RASHID created a sham bank account (“Bank Account-1”) purportedly belonging to Witness-1, into which RASHID deposited what would have amounted to a lawful wage.  RASHID then provided bank statements to the UN as proof that RASHID was paying Witness-1 as required.  However, RASHID never gave Witness-1 access to Bank Account-1 and instead used Bank Account-1 as RASHID’s own account.
HAMIDUR RASHID, 50, of New York, New York, is charged with one count of visa fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of access device fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison; and one count of fraud in foreign labor contracting, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.  The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Kim praised the efforts of DSS in this investigation.  He added that the investigation is continuing.
The allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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