ODESSA, TX (KWES) - A well-known Odessa attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to lying about ownership of his firm, a violation of his Visa conditions, officials said.
Rahul Malhotra, 46, faces up to five years in federal prison for making a false statement to federal authorities.
He and his Houston-based attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Calls to his law offices in Midland and Odessa were not returned.
The Canadian citizen entered the United States in March 1997 as a non-immigrant "TN" Visa holder to work at an Odessa law firm, according to court records, and purchased the practice 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.
Malhotra was questioned by federal authorities in October 2014, according to prosecutors, after filing papers to change 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 was unique, he added, and marked the first case he had ever prosecuted 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.
The disgraced personal injury attorney is scheduled to be sentenced November 17 before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia.