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Two Companies, Eight Individuals Plead Guilty to Labor Scheme Using Visa Fraud to Provide Hospitality Workers

Two companies and eight officers and employees have pled guilty to a scheme that illegally provided workers for hospitality venues by misusing visas, with one company and six employees also sentenced in federal court.

Pro Roof GA

The guilty pleas and sentences, resulting from an indictment returned in April 2021, spell out a conspiracy in which the two companies and their officers and managers recruited and hired noncitizen laborers in housekeeping, retail, and food service positions for resort and hospitality businesses located across the United States, including venues in the Southern District of Georgia, through illegal manipulation of tourist and education visas, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“The successful resolution of this case is about far more than holding accountable these businesses and their officer and employees for violating the law; it also represents justice for illegally exploited workers who were charged hundreds of dollars in fees in return for access to employment,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg.

The defendants entered guilty pleas and were sentenced as follows:

  • Samvel Nikoghosyan, 40, of Destrehan, La., sentenced to 24 months’ probation and to pay a special assessment of $5,100 after pleading guilty to Aiding and Abetting the Transportation of Aliens. Nikoghosyan served as Chief Executive Officer of Regal Hospitality prior to Sargis Makaryan.
  • Artur Grigoryan, 38, of Biloxi, Miss., sentenced to 12 months’ probation after pleading guilty to Unlawful Employment of Aliens. Grigoryan was employed as an Area Manager for Regal Hospitality.
  • Armen Ayrapetyan, 37, of Duluth, Ga., sentenced to 12 months’ probation after pleading guilty to Unlawful Employment of Aliens. Ayrapetyan was employed as an Area Manager for Regal Hospitality.
  • Jason Hill, 28, of Virginia Beach, Va., sentenced to 12 months’ probation after pleading guilty to Unlawful Employment of Aliens. Hill was employed as a Supervisor for Regal Hospitality.
  • Educational World Inc., of North Port, Fla., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud the United States and Commit Offenses. The plea agreement, entered by Educational World President Larisa Khariton, 73, and Vice President Jon Clark, 71, both of North Port, Fla., subjects the company to a fine of $500,000 or double the gross gain or loss resulting from the conspiracy, whichever is greater, and up to five years’ probation.


In addition, Fremie Balbastro, 49, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in the District of South Carolina to False Statement to a Mortgage Lending Business. Balbastro was employed as a Regional Vice President of Operations for Regal Hospitality. Balbastro is scheduled for sentencing April 18.

As described in plea agreements and court testimony, the defendants participated in a scheme at least through May 2017 in which they enriched themselves by recruiting and hiring noncitizen laborers without authorization to work for Regal Hospitality Solutions (RHS). RHS had contracts to provide hospitality related businesses with workers in housekeeping, retail, and food service positions. To fill those positions, RHS hired noncitizens who were not authorized to work for RHS in the United States, and in some cases, arranging for housing and transportation for the workers.

Workers provided through the scheme generally were present in the United States through expiring and expired education visas. Educational World charged the workers $650 to illegally prepare tourist visa applications for those workers, who then were provided to RHS for employment in violation of the tourist visas. In addition to fees paid by the workers, Educational World also received a commission from RHS for each worker provided.

“Identifying and stopping those who are involved in labor exploitation not only protects workers from unjust and often times inhumane treatment, but also prevents unfair competitive advantages that harm the labor market,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Hopefully, the results of this case will encourage others being exploited to come forward and seek help.”

The U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General investigated the case with assistance provided by Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, with prosecution from the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney and Deputy Criminal Chief E. Greg Gilluly Jr. of the Southern District of Georgia.

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