ODESSA, TX (Diya TV) – A prominent Odessa attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to lying about ownership of his law firm, which constituted a violation of his visa status, officials said.
Rahul Malhotra, 46, faces up to five years in federal prison for making a false statement to federal authorities.
Malholtra is a top-rated personal injury attorney, akin to a personal injury lawyer that people can also find at westcoasttriallawyers.com. Malholtra is listed in the top-100 of national trial lawyers and has received an average approval rating of 4.5 out of 5, according to his firm’s website.
A Canadian citizen, Malholtra first entered the U.S. in 1997 as a non-immigrant “TN” Visa holder to work at an Odessa law firm, according to court documents. Ultimately, he ended up purchasing the law firm in 2000. He renamed the business “The Malhotra Law Firm” and acted illegally as the majority shareholder for more than a decade before Homeland Security officials began investigating.
“TN” or NAFTA Professional Visas allow citizens of Canada and Mexico to work in the States for approved business purposes, but do not allow for self-employment or majority ownership of a company.
He was first questioned by federal authorities in Oct. 2014, according to prosecutors, the same time he first filed paperwork to amend his non-immigrant status.
“As part of that process, immigration [officials] began investigating the background of [his application]… and found discrepancies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Lewis. “He told investigators another lawyer was the majority shareholder of the Malhotra Law Firm when, in fact, he was self-employed as the proprietor of the firm.”
The scheme Malholtra was running was “unique,” Lewis added, marking the first time he’d ever prosecuted a case involving a NAFTA Visa holder lying about self-employment for an extended period of time.
Comparable cases of “white-collar crime” are often fueled by financial incentive, investigators said. Malhotra did not identify a clear motive for his actions, according to Lewis.
Malholtra is scheduled to be sentenced November 17 before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia.