Myrtle Beach hospitality visa fraud case reaches plea deal

Most of the Myrtle Beach-area defendants named in a sweeping federal indictment alleging foreign worker abuse have reached plea deals.

Grandeur Management, the Myrtle Beach hotel company at the center of the allegations, and its CEO Raja Imran Younas signed agreements last month pleading guilty to one charge each, according to district court records.

The company will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, while Younas will plead to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In exchange, the US Department of Justice will drop all other charges, including visa fraud.

Both sides will be sentenced next month, according to defense attorney Russell Long.

Younas faces up to 20 years in prison based on sentencing guidelines for the wire fraud conspiracy charge.

Long told The Sun News that the department’s case ended up being smaller and less serious than originally described, though prosecutor Carrie Fisher Sherard disputed that characterization.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina announced the indictment last June at a press conference in Myrtle Beach, alleging they had identified dozens of victims recruited from the area primarily from Philippines and Jamaica.

Grandeur Management and its agents lied to these workers, involved in various federal visa programs, in terms of the jobs they would have, the amount they would be paid and their living conditions, according to the indictment.

“We think there are a lot more (casualties),” Ed Roth, resident officer in charge of the US State Department’s diplomatic security service, said at the time. “Several dozen at least, maybe hundreds.”

Fisher Sherard told The Sun News they have so far identified more than 50 victims in the case, and ensuring they all get restitution is a priority for the US Attorney’s office.

As part of the plea deals, Grandeur and Younas are confiscating funds that were found in 11 bank accounts and the company’s North Oak Street office totaling more than $900,000. Long said those funds should be more than enough to satisfy any court-ordered fines or restitution.

During the plea hearing, Fisher Sherard told the court that a victim was ‘forced’ to pay $75 a week for a two-bedroom apartment she shared with 12 other people, while earning just $8 dollars an hour.

The company applied for more than 2,000 overseas jobs from 2014 to 2021, and some of those workers stayed in the United States after their visas expired or were denied, according to Fisher Sherard’s statement to the court.

“By contracting out these foreign workers, Grandeur Management has generated millions of dollars in revenue for hotels and businesses in the Myrtle Beach area,” the statement said.

Grandeur Management continues to operate, helping to supply foreign workers to many of Grand Strand’s hospitality businesses, but Long said he expects Younas to start winding down its recruiting business after this summer.

Other defendants

Two other defendants in the case, Syed Naqvi and Concepcion Dalmacion, signed similar agreements in February to plead guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, court records show. Naqvi was accused of signing work papers for foreign workers using false information, while Dalmacion was a recruiter for Hospitality Service Group LLC, another hotel company named in the indictment.

All advocacy agreements provide for future cooperation with law enforcement if necessary to provide full and truthful information to advance the investigation.

There remain three active defendants in the case and no plea deals are pending in court filings. They are Tigran Hovhannisyan, his company Hospitality Service Group LLC, Grandeur employee Jessica Voight and Hospitality Service Group recruiter Amante Orzame.

Lawyer Francis Humphries, representing Hovhannisyan, told Sun News that his client had not been served in the case because he had been in his home country of Armenia since the charges were announced. . Hovhannisyan intends to return to South Carolina and cooperate, but has not yet been able to due to travel restrictions and health issues, Humphries said.

Hovhannisyan previously told The Sun News that he denied committing fraud and believed his inclusion in the indictment was a mistake because his partnership with Grandeur Management and Younas ended in 2015.

A lawyer for Voight did not return a voicemail and no lawyer was listed for Orzame.

Fisher Sherard described Hovhannisyan and Orzame as fugitives, as both are believed to be currently located outside of the United States, while negotiations are ongoing with Voight and his attorney.

Grandeur Management remains a defendant in a separate civil case against a local Marriott hotel. An anonymous victim claims to have been raped at the hotel by a foreign worker employed by Grandeur.

This story was originally published April 11, 2022 11:51 a.m.

Investigative projects reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News in 2018 after three years working at the York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, and he won awards from the South Carolina Press Association and Keystone Media for his investigative reporting on topics such as health, business, politics and education. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 2014.

Comments are closed.