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The Sopranos Meet H-1B In New Jersey 324

Posted by kdawson
from the know-guys-who-know-guys dept.
theodp writes "We smack this IT geek around a little, take him for a nice car ride, threaten to 'take care of him' if he doesn't recant his story, give him 5 G's for his trouble, and badda boom, badda bing, case dismissed. Federal prosecutors allege that an H-1B visa-holding IT employee who was owed some $53,000 in back wages was threatened in meetings at restaurants and in his home if he didn't change his story. However, the victim captured some of what happened on tape, and two employees of an Illinois-based IT staffing company — not named in the indictment but identified by the NJ Star-Ledger as ComData Consulting Inc. of Rolling Meadows, IL — are now facing extortion-related charges and a possible 20 years in prison."
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The Sopranos Meet H-1B In New Jersey

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  • by IonOtter (629215) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:35PM (#31891390) Homepage

    Geeks live for this sort of crap, so don't try it.

    You will lose.

  • by linzeal (197905) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:36PM (#31891402) Homepage Journal

    When I was an undergrad I used to eat across the street from the Engineering building at a small Vietnamese restaurant, it was cheap and hot.

    One particular late night I came there with a few hours of Hydro HW, sat down and ordered some Pho and started taking my stuff out of my backpack when I heard this inhuman scream and a slap. I thought they were being robbed or something and froze there in terror until I started hearing the crying and "shhhhhh" sounds I remember all too well from a Catholic school upbringing, someone was being beaten in the back and whoever was doing it was trying to stop other people from finding out. I am ashamed to say it but I went outside and smoked a cigarette, ate the Pho and left as quickly as possible. I think I even left a tip. The next week I came in during the day to get something and the woman behind the counter had a fading welt in the shape of a belt across her face and she was smiling.

    So, after that shameful moment of realization I went to the Women's Resource Center on campus and told them. Never found out what happened though, that woman's face behind the counter haunts me to this day. Too many of just do nothing when we know the shitty situation those workers find themselves in.

  • Re:Let it begin (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:40PM (#31891424)

    try talking about changing the h1b visa laws so that h1b visa holders can change companies when they want to and get paid real us wages for work in the us..

  • by shis-ka-bob (595298) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @08:47PM (#31891456)
    Email to info@comdataus.com. If you have hiring authority, promise never to use them. If you don't have hiring authority, just remember the name and badmouth them to anyone who does.
  • How many years? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:00PM (#31891538) Homepage Journal
    20 years for extortion, and how many years for falsifying the need for entry level IT workers? I can name several unemployed people who could easily fit the task of "web development, information technology and software development" mentioned in the article. Specialized skill, yeah right.
    Judging by the content of recruiters e-mails that I get, it is not possible to get an IT related job in the United States right now unless you are an H1-B visa holder.
  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:10PM (#31891598)

    Under Illinois law, you can only audio record if all parties are made aware of the recording. If this guy was recording surreptitiously, then he might be in for some legal trouble of his own, not to mention that the recording may or may not be admissible (IANAL).

  • by onyxruby (118189) <{onyxruby} {at} {comcast.net}> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:20PM (#31891670)

    I remember years back being lured to a new job with one of the incentives being that the job included health insurance. Turned out that they 'had' it terms of it was offered, not included. It was an awful plan with no employer cost coverage. The cost for my family would have been a grand a month if I had paid for it.

    I explained that I was one phone call from going back to where I came from and that the recruiters deceptive words were going to have a cost. In the end they ate the cost of the insurance, and I stayed where I was. Some people will bully you unless you stand up for yourself. All that being said, in today's economy I don't know if that is still good advice.

    How about accountability in H1B with public records? That would solve this kind of problem for the poor guy who was owed so many back wages. Those in the states who are losing out to H1B's would better be able to make the case that their are Americans who can do the job. Those that do come over could avoid being turned into virtual slaves, I have met far too many H1B's who were worked 80 hours a week for wages less than half what an American would take. They would do it too, whether it was because their passport was confiscated or because such wages were still that much better than what they made at home.

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:34PM (#31891756)
    If what you wanted were to happen, all of those smart people - the millions of them - would emigrate to the US and drive wages down so far, that unless you had some sort of protection like the AMA or BAR, you'd be making minimum wage and I'm sure a black market would open up for others to work less.

    As it is, having a h1-b or having to physically move overseas or creating some sort of relationship over there, has kept us from sinking that low - but it will happen eventually. I don't see the World's economy growing fast enough to account for all the labor being added as more and more countries start trading with the rest of the World.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:39PM (#31891782)

    There are two aspects of law that apply to audio recordings.

    First, you can't use it as evidence (without having a warrant that says that a specific recording can be made). So, while you couldn't take it into court, you certainly could use it to go to the police and convince them very effectively to investigate further. And if the criminals are using such amateurish standover tactics, then odds are pretty good that basic police investigating will be enough to charge them soon afterwards.

    Secondly, it's an invasion of privacy. Even - for some funny reason - in a public place (hey, I didn't write the law). But, odds are extremely low that you'll be charged criminally, since the DA has better things to do than charge victims, and criminals aren't usually going to go to a civil court to say that they've been recorded illegally when the illegal recording in question identifies their own much more illegal activities.

    I'm not saying I advocate means-to-an-end/fight-evil-with-evil solutions; I'm just saying that, pragmatically, someone who makes an audio recording of a crime doesn't have much to worry about on account of the recording itself. So you're completely correct, but none of what you're correct about matters very much in practice.

    Also; that's not what happened anyway. It was a recording with a warrant (and not in Illinois), so none of what either of us said applies.

  • Re:Revolting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by carlzum (832868) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @09:48PM (#31891840)
    I lived in a small town on the Jersey shore and the tourist industry was controlled by organized crime. There were things like pizza shops that stayed in business without customers, suspicious fires, business owners being "encouraged" to sell, etc. Each summer an army of Mexican workers would appear out of thin air to staff the restaurants, hotels, and beaches. I figured it made sense with New York City near and the promise of work.

    A few years ago, it came to light that the local mob was working with Mexican mobs to traffic in seasonal workers across the state. They were working for next to nothing, usually tricked or coerced into service by Mexican criminals.

    Like you said, it was revolting. A lot of them were teenagers or young families with kids. It was a very small town, but we never saw them in school or playing outside. Police found homes with 70+ people crammed in every room. They were apparently told to stay out of sight and spent months with young children shut inside day and night.
  • by swm (171547) * <swmcd@world.std.com> on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:03PM (#31891908) Homepage
    Extortion only works in two cases
    • the extortionist is the government (see also: taxes)
    • the government has abdicated sovereignty over the victim (e.g. drug dealers, prostitutes, bookies, loan sharks)

    IT staffing firms don't fall into the first category, and web developers don't fall into the second.

  • Re:Let it begin (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:14PM (#31891952)

    Thanks for the link - the video makes sense when you consider the illegal aliens. But I sincerely doubt H1B program is causing any significant amount of population growth in the United States. The 6yr cap, the dismally low Green card numbers leading to decades of wait periods, the very volatile IT job market, the fact that most h1-b workers are brought by outsourcing companies which by definition means that they are temporary (2-3 year average stay in my experience) - this all means that H1-B people are may be not even be significant to cultural, environmental and all the other issues pointed out in that presentation.

  • Stock Options (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaveAtFraud (460127) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @10:44PM (#31892096) Homepage Journal

    The idiots from the IT outsourcing firm should have done it the "dot com" way. Under pay him by the same amount but promise him lots of stock options with absurd vesting requirements. Too bad if the the stock options go under water and then disappear through a corporate buyout.

    You may have better odds striking it rich in Vegas or by playing the lottery but stock options in lieu of salary are legal.

    Cheers,
    Dave

  • Re:Let it begin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:03PM (#31892232)

    > but most Americans complain about these things for perfectly rational reasons.
    ha haha do you really believe that? No they don't, they do it for one of two reasons:
    1. They are racist, even if they don't want to admit it (though to be fair, it's usually more ignorance than racism)
    2. They are scared that they are going to lose their job to someone else.

    I remember when we had a lot of upgrade related tedium that nobody at my company wanted to do, so we hired an Indian company do do it. The white trash people in my company (who, remember, didn't want to do the work), started making silly complaints:
    "Doesn't India have like a 24 hour time difference?" No, and if they did, 24 hours would mean 0 hours. They don't mind working different hours to humor us, and it's better if they work off hours anyway, so they can get stuff done when we're sleeping.
    "But do they speak English? Probably only Indian" - yeah, there's no language called Indian, brianiac. I guess they didn't know that the official language of instruction at many many places in India is English.

    Also, the whole "Our Jobs" concept is bogus. There is work to be done. There is no place where god or satan defined which work is "our work". There's work to be done, and people willing to do it. If I live in New York, does that mean I should say people can't come from New Jersey to do it "My" New York work? I mean, get real. Bitching about people coming to the US to work will only result in the work being moved overseas instead, and the US will decrease in relevance.

    Oh yeah, Americans love a free market, when it works to their advantage. As soon as it goes against your advantage, then you don't like it. Part of capitalism is that you will earn the market price. With the world shrinking, and a lot of people overseas willing to work harder than americans for less pay, that market value is falling for many basic jobs. That's the way it is, get used to it - or you could just bitch about it some more instead. There are ways to insulate yourself from it and prepare, though. I suggest you read "the world is flat" for more about that.

    Anyway, as an American who had to go through a lot of hurdles to get a Visa somewhere else, I agree that the H1, and similar programs are not great - but in the opposite way. There should be no such requirement to get a Visa. That's just a hurdle to free market dynamics. I would vote that people should be able to move between countries in the future like they do states now, as the world shrinks. All the visa processing mainly just creates headaches for everyone. If anyone could simply move to the US or any other country they wanted (so long as they pay taxes, etc.), then a lot of people would come to the US, and realize that working at McDonalds there isn't any better than working at McDonalds in China or India, and go back. People with true skills would be able to get employed with less hassle, and if you ever got tired of bitching about how immigrants stole "your" jobs, you could go somewhere else and steal theirs. Some countries have taken a step in this direction (The Working Holiday program, which includes Canada, Autrailia, Japan, New Zealand, and a few others) - and it's been good for them in general. It hasn't lead to an explosion of illegal immigrants and the fall of society.

  • by sethstorm (512897) * on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:08PM (#31892272) Homepage

    There is no shortage of citizens that are capable of doing the job - they just have the problem of being a US citizen.

    Cancel the program and make it impossible to ignore the citizen until there is a real problem (long-term & short-term unemployment under 2%). Make it so that permatemping/temporary work does not count towards that 2%. Then reinstate with a sufficient amount of people(whom are paid a wage that discourages bribery) to enforce that law.

    When you hear "shortage" used to describe the amount of citizens in a needed part of the private sector(whether it is IT or most non-temporary forms of employment in the US), the source is lying through their teeth.

  • by carlzum (832868) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:10PM (#31892294)
    Excellent point, I wish I had mod points. I don't think people understand that foreign workers are often more vulnerable than they were at home. They're isolated from family, financially dependent on their employer, and trapped in a society that's alien and frightening to them.

    And what if they do leave? Assuming their immigration status allows them to quit and seek assistance, they could take refuge in a shelter for a while and possibly scrap together food and rent if they're lucky enough to find a minimum wage job. Sadly, dealing with the abuse and staying put may be their best option.
  • by Rasperin (1034758) on Sunday April 18, 2010 @11:18PM (#31892338)
    Your point is valid to an extent, there are a few diamonds among the ruff and there are some piss poor american programmers. But (in my experiences and most anecdotal experience I've heard) most native India indian programmers cannot program the simplest stuff. I've come to the belief that it is a culture thing, the ways we think and process stuff has got to be completely different here compared to there. I don't know what's so hard about thinking logically but trying to explain something (with pictures and everything, I spent 6 months in Hydrabad training a team) always seems to fail. Honestly I don't know why that entire country is mostly full of fails.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 19, 2010 @12:32AM (#31892726) Homepage

    It's good to see the Department of Labor putting some teeth into labor law again. During the Bush years, too many regulatory agencies were out to lunch. The SEC, of course, we know about. Less well known was the attitude at the Labor Department. Now they're catching crooks again.

    Also, Obama just made two recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB was down to two members, and couldn't do anything. Now the NLRB is back in business. It's going to be easier to unionize.

    US wage and hour law, as enacted by Congress decades ago, is quite pro-labor. It's the enforcement that's been weak. Looks like that's changing.

  • Re:How many years? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Billly Gates (198444) on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:07AM (#31892884) Journal

    "For people who are supposed to be intelligent, it never ceases to amaze me that developers are amazingly ignorant of the way the economy really works."

    It ceases to amaze me that an intelligent person like yourself is not aware of tax law and fixed costs such as a head tax on hiring American workers.

    A few years ago, I read that it costs about $14,000 a head in taxes for most fortunate 500 companies. With an H1B1 its about $0.

    So if they can hire an entry level system administrator for $15,000 a year (about the going price for a fresh student in India) then I would have to work for $1,000 to match it. Can I do that under minimum wage laws?

    Either get rid of head tax or apply it for foreign hires. Then we have fairer capitalism.

  • Re:Yes and no. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @01:15AM (#31892922)
    I can assure you that it is not just happening in New Jersey.
    I'm sure that if presented with this and 3 others to congress they would say that "These are isolated incidents and have no bearing on the overall benefit of H1-B's and possible abuse of H1-B's".
    I tend to believe that where there is smoke there is fire. People have been reporting smoke for a long time and I have actually seen fire.
    It's rather frustrating that given the economic situation congress goes along and does what it's monetary supporters demand, I mean request.

    I think I hear more and more talk of US being closer to a third world country and am beginning to wonder if we haven't already slipped farther in that direction than we think. You know where there's smoke there may be fire. It's already given that the US dollar is going to be dropped as a major trading commodity, after that maybe Glen Beck will really have something to cry about. Well at least he won't have to go to China to get his skirts, he can get them made with the US label.
  • Re:Let it begin (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:34AM (#31893272)

    "What makes your country is your culture (and I don't mean things like country music or apple pie here...), and if you just open your borders, you will be immediately swamped by third-worlders (like me) who want their piece of the quality-of-life pie."

    This, of course, is already the story of America. Anyone who isn't a Native American is the descendant of people who wanted a better life. Those of us with families that have been here for centuries have no more right to be here than you do.

  • Re:Let it begin (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday April 19, 2010 @02:40AM (#31893296) Journal

    This, of course, is already the story of America. Anyone who isn't a Native American is the descendant of people who wanted a better life.

    It's not that simple - there's also this whole "freedom, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" thing. Everyone wants a better life, but different people understand that differently, and U.S. has its own definition (that is rather unique in some ways).

  • Re:Unacceptable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday April 19, 2010 @04:18AM (#31893642)

    You think that's bad? Here's something to think about. It is illegal to import goods into the USA that have been manufactured by prison labour [wikipedia.org]. Not just for sale, but also things that you might have on you during your vacation. Oh, and this goes for interstate as well.

    But the US uses prison labour to manufacture various things. Are license plates still made in prisons? If so, that does seem to go against this particular law every single time you cross a state border. How about all the circuit boards that IBM and Compaq have or used to have made by prison labour?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @04:46AM (#31893726)

    I am sure that people are going to clam me for this, but with so many unemployed IT people in the US, why are people being imported from other countries? I can see the reason when someone has extremely rare, exceptional, and valuable skills and the US labor pool is unable to fill the demand, but that's not the case with most of these H1-B people. I've seen DBAs, MSCEs, etc from India, Dominican Republic, and Egypt being overworked for $40k in jobs that should be paying a lot more than that, and to workers who are treated well. (OK, well not physically abused or asked to break the law in order to keep their jobs). Where are the unions when this happens? nowhere to be found.

    I had been thinking that the US should trade only with countries who have adequate labor and environmental laws, so all businesses have a fair playing field. But then, I realize that in many countries,it's easier to pay someone off to skirt the law than it is to follow the law. To a certain extent this is true here in the US as well, which is why we need to find bastards like ComData and squish them out of existance.

    All this talk about making the US a "competitive business climate" is just a race to the bottom in worker's rights. It's time to create standards of behaviour for labor and to see that they are adequately enforced. I would hope that other countries can do the same, and a healthy and viable trading economy between the best countries would be the result. I don't care so much that a salt&pepper shaker set made in the US costs $2.49 while one made in China costs $1, if the quality of the product and the treatment of the workers who produced it is adequate. This doesn't mean that I believe in this whole "Buy American!" crap, because there are so few products which have a certain and comprehensive national origin, and that there are plenty of employers in the US who treat their employees poorly. Being treated well doesn't mean that you have a guarantted 5 weeks of vacation per year, it means that the working environment is decent, there is no deception in wages and benefits, that number of hours per day and days per week are reasonable, and there is no personal abuse by supervisors or co-workers permitted.

    I don't, myself, put up with crap at the workplace. I had a boss threaten me with physical violence, in a serious manner and he had the ability to do it and a reputation of a very bad temper. I simply got up and left. I probably could have sued him, but I didn't know that at the time.

  • Re:Let it begin (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TBoon (1381891) on Monday April 19, 2010 @06:41AM (#31894148)

    Population growth? How does that affect it much? More people, more people need to provide services to a larger population.

    Technology? To a certain extent I guess. As more fewer people can care for more other people. On the other hand, technology has provided new avenues for services. Instead of 2 small grocery shops there is now 1 large and efficient one, but next to it is a cell-phone dealer...

    Free market and capitalism? yes. most certainly. here in norway the minimum wage, while absent in law, in reality is over $15/hr for unskilled labour. Even with a much higher tax-rate than the US that still leave plenty of money for a single person to support themselves frugaly... Yes, eating at a restaurant or even fast food frequently is prohibitly expensive here, but that's because even those people working there makea decent salary.

    The low cost of many products and services in the US is based on those providing them being payed really low wages./P

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 19, 2010 @08:47AM (#31894660)

    These people are controlled by fear. Fear of worse beatings. Fear of death.

    Not so much. It may surprise you the majority of fear stems from deportation, not death. Many locals are illegals, or have family members abroad held hostage from being smuggled into America as ransom for any disobedience. Whether Mexican or Asian, local ethnic communities even in your city have gangs and organized ethnic mafioso which prey upon their own. So, what does it say about a person, and the country they are from, that will gladly weigh the cost of a beating against their own, or a friends, to at least reside in America.

  • Re:man!.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WillDraven (760005) on Monday April 19, 2010 @10:37AM (#31895948) Homepage

    my dad has better gear there then most of the local contractors / workers

    Maybe he should hire a couple of impressionable young people, teach them honest business practices (and how to do the actual work of course) and start his own contracting company.

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