Attorney and paralegal sentenced for fraud

I’m off to Duluth, GA, for the weekend tomorrow, so this article drew my attention because it involves both Duluth and a paralegal. Unfortunately, it is another story of a paralegal that allowed himself to be drawn into a fraudulent scheme rather than refusing and reporting the involved attorney.

Parmesh Dixit, 41, of Alpharetta, was sentenced to prison recently by United States District Judge Julie Carnes on charges of conspiracy to harbor aliens in violation of the law.

Punyapriya Patel, 37, also of Alpharetta was also sentenced by Carnes for his role in the same conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants.

United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “Dixit, an immigration attorney, made over $1 million by submitting fraudulent applications for a specialized visa program for executives of foreign companies. Our immigration pathways are not for sale, and now Dixit is going to prison.”….

Dixit was sentenced to 2 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service and forfeit $1.2 million. Dixit pleaded guilty to the charges on May 6, 2011.

Patel, whom the court noted as contributing significant cooperation in the case, was sentenced to 3 years of probation, beginning with six months of home confinement.

He was also ordered to perform 80 hours of community service, and forfeit $100,000. Patel pleaded guilty to the charges on May 12, 2011.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Lawful visa programs exist through which certain high-level managers in overseas companies can legally come to the United States to work. DIXIT conspired with PATEL, a paralegal in his law office, with Hitesh Desai, 47, of Duluth, Ga, owner of “Intelli Infotek,” a software development and consultant company previously located in Duluth, and with others, to assist immigrants seeking visas that would allow them to enter or remain in the United States and work here.

There is no information in the story on which we can question Patel’s “right” to call himself an paralegal. It is, of course, unfortunate that his conduct reflects so poorly on the paralegal profession when so many paralegals are striving to improve the profession’s image.

I am wondering though whether local and national paralegal associations might be able to prevent some of these instances of paralegal participation in crimes (see the “Paralegal Crimes” category) by providing education and formal, but confidential support to paralegals who are being asked to participate in questionable activities. It seems likely to me that some paralegals “drift” into complicity because they do not know what to do even when they know it would be best not to do. The logistics might prove problematic. For example, it may be necessary for the paralegals providing the support to work under the supervision of a volunteer attorney in order to provide true confidentiality. But professional paralegals are quite adept at working out solutions to such logistical problems.

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