Ohio Auditor may join investigation of Wright State H-1B visa issues

The Ohio Auditor’s office may join investigations into Wright State’s use of H-1B visas.
The Ohio Auditor’s office may join investigations into Wright State’s use of H-1B visas.

The Ohio Auditor of State’s office will look into Wright State University for matters related to H-1B visa fraud that may have occurred at the school if the school’s board approves to waive attorney-client privileges.

Wright State’s board on Tuesday will vote whether to waive attorney-client privilege so the state auditor can have access to an internal audit related to an immigration investigation that has dogged the university for more than two years.

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The state auditor’s probe would mark the fourth overall on the issue. WSU has already provided the material to the U.S. Attorney’s office, the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Ohio Inspector General.

The state auditor’s office declined to comment on the matter.

In 2015, a federal investigation came to light of WSU’s potential misuse of the federal H-1B work visa program, which led to four administrators being suspended; two remain on paid leave.

This newspaper revealed that Wright State sponsored 19 foreign workers who came to the U.S. to work at an area information technology staffing company that paid the workers less than what local graduates typically make for similar IT work.

RELATED: Suspended WSU employees tied to IT contract

Immigration experts say it’s possible the arrangement violated immigration laws designed to prevent staffing agencies from trafficking in cheap labor from overseas.

In April, WSU trustees asked the university’s attorney to make referrals for further investigations to the state out of “an abundance of caution,” said Doug Fecher, chairman of WSU’s board of trustees. The latest probe is likely another response to those referrals, which Fecher described as “routine.”

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In June, Fecher said he did not know who was mentioned in the referrals or how many WSU’s attorney made.

“The (internal audit) report is being thoroughly investigated because we want to get to the bottom of it,” Fecher said. “Its going exactly the way the board expected it to go.”