June 2, 2023


Just Do Travel

Myrtle Beach hospitality visa fraud case reaches plea deal

Most of the Myrtle Beach-area defendants named in a wide-ranging federal indictment alleging abuse of foreign workers have reached plea agreements.

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

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

Both parties 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 the 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’d identified dozens of victims recruited to the area primarily from the Philippines and Jamaica.

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

“We think there are many more (victims),” Ed Roth, resident agent in charge for the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, said at the time. “Many more dozens at least, perhaps hundreds.”

Fisher Sherard told The Sun News they’ve identified more than 50 victims in the case so far, and ensuring they all get restitution was a priority for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

As part of the plea agreements, Grandeur and Younas are forfeiting 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 fines or restitution imposed by the court.

At the plea hearing, Fisher Sherard told the court that one victim was “compelled” to pay $75 per week for a two-bedroom apartment that she shared with 12 other people, while only making $8 per hour.

The company petitioned for more than 2,000 foreign labor positions 2014-2021, and some of those workers stayed in the U.S. after their visas were expired or denied, according to Fisher Sherard’s statement to the court.

“By subcontracting out these foreign workers, Grandeur Management generated millions of dollars in income from the Myrtle Beach area hotels and businesses,” the statement read.

Grandeur Management is continuing to operate, helping to provide foreign workers for numerous Grand Strand hospitality businesses, but Long said he expects Younas will begin winding down his staffing 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 hospitality company named in the indictment.

All the plea agreements mandate future cooperation with law enforcement agencies as necessary in providing full, truthful information to help further the investigation.

There are three remaining active defendants in the case with no plea agreements pending in court records. They are Tigran Hovhannisyan, his business Hospitality Service Group LLC, Grandeur employee Jessica Voight and Hospitality Service Group recruiter Amante Orzame.

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

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

An attorney for Voight did not return a voicemail message, and no attorney was listed for Orzame.

Fisher Sherard described Hovhannisyan and Orzame as fugitives, as both are believed to be currently located outside the U.S., while negotiations are ongoing with Voight and her attorney.

Grandeur Management remains a defendant in a separate civil case against a local Marriott hotel. An unnamed victim is alleging she was raped at the hotel by a foreign worker staffed by Grandeur.

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

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