US charges Indian consular officer with fraud

NEW YORK: An Indian consular officer was Thursday charged with visa fraud and making false statements over allegedly underpaying and overworking an Indian babysitter and housekeeper at her New York home.

Devyani Khobragade, 39, was to appear before a US magistrate on Thursday in connection with a visa application for and employment of the domestic worker from November 2012 to June 2013.

The charge sheet said she is currently employed as deputy consul general for political, economic, commercial and women’s affairs at the Consulate General of India in New York.

“This type of fraud on the United States and exploitation of an individual will not be tolerated,” said Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York.

Diplomats and consular officers are granted visas for domestic workers provided they provide proof that the worker will be paid and treated as fairly as someone employed directly in the United States.

But Khobragade allegedly got a visa by promising the US State Department she would pay $4,500 a month and signing a sham employment contract promising an hourly salary of $9.75.

But she is accused of crafting a separate agreement with the worker for payment of no more than $3.31 and without any safeguards against working longer than 40 hours a week.

According to the charge sheet, the housekeeper worked far longer than 40 hours a week and paid even less than promised separately.

If convicted, Khobragade faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making false statements.

Source: APP