Until now, there have been only vague hints of improprieties in Garland ISD's H1-B visa program. There was an investigation serious enough to call in the feds, possibly involving foreign teachers paying fees they shouldn't have had to pay, and a bunch of teachers' visas were set to expire.
Today, Garland ISD cleared the air with a press conference detailing the findings of an outside investigation into the program. To quickly summarize: It's all the HR guy's fault.
Victor Leos is the guy's name, and he served as Garland ISD's HR director for years before retiring in January. Over the past decade, he exploited the district's H1-B program to funnel cash into his and his family's pocket, according to the investigation, which was conducted by the law firm Littler Mendelson.
H1-B visas allow U.S. companies and universities to recruit highly skilled foreign workers from abroad to fill jobs that are hard to fill with Americans. School districts have used the program to find bilingual teachers. Federal law mandates that the employer has to pay all costs for obtaining the visa.
That's not what was happening at Garland ISD. Leos, according to the investigation, would go recruit teachers himself, generally in the Philippines, even though there are virtually no native Spanish speakers there. Sometimes, per NBC 5, he would hire 30 at a time.
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Leos charged new teachers an orientation fee, which he kept. He further exploited the foreign teachers' eagerness to come to the U.S. by making them sign a one-year lease with stepson Paul Ruediger, a Garland ISD teacher (he's on leave) who has a rental home on Preston Trail in Garland, investigators say.
From their, H1-B issues were handled by the Yu Law Firm, where Leos' stepdaughter works. Garland ISD has since cut ties with the firm.
The district said at the press conference it has already paid $250,000 to reimburse improperly recruited teachers and will likely have to spend another $500,000.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.