(KSDK) - State Representative Nathan Cooper entered a courtroom Thursday and pleaded guilty to his role in a scheme to illegally get visas for workers.
Cooper, who represents the Cape Girardeau area, is also an immigration lawyer. He took advantage of a temporary visa program to help clients in the trucking business.
The program, called H2B, allows companies who need seasonal workers, and can’t find enough locally, to get temporary work visas so they can hire workers who are not U.S. citizens. Prosecutors say the trucking company didn’t need seasonal workers, but Cooper ignored the law and convinced a government agency to issue the visas anyway.
Cooper took in $50,000 in legal fees over a two year period from clients in the trucking industry to obtain the illicit visas.
Cooper admitted creating shell companies to acquire the visas, which would be used for his trucking company clients. He also admitted he issued bogus letters to government agencies, and illegally sold the visas to other companies.
In a released statement, Gordon Heddell, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor., said, "The Foreign Labor Certification Program is designed to ensure that foreign workers, who are admitted into the United States, do not adversely affect the job opportunities, wages, and working conditions of U.S. workers. This guilty plea brings to justice an individual, currently serving as state representative and immigration attorney, who defrauded the program to facilitate the entry of workers for personal gain.”
Cooper, 33, pleaded guilty to one felony count of visa fraud and one felony count of making a false statement to the Department of Labor. The maximum sentence would be 15 years in prison and fines up to $500,000.
Cooper will be sentenced in October.