Former Missouri state representative gets 15 months in prison

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Former Missouri Rep. Nathan Cooper of Cape Girardeau, Mo., was sentenced to 15 months in prison on fraud charges involving his scheme to obtain temporary worker visas for his clients in the trucking business, the St. Louis Business Journal reported Monday, Dec. 10.

Cooper pleaded guilty in August to the visa fraud charges, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Reap told the Business Journal. Cooper, who resigned from his seat shortly after pleading guilty, also will pay a $6,000 fine and spend two years on supervised release after leaving prison, according to the newspaper.

Additionally, as part of his plea, Cooper has been terminated in his participation as an agent or representative of any employer with respect to any matter concerning the Department of Labor’s Foreign Certification programs, the Business Journal reported. As an attorney in Cape Girardeau specializing in immigration law, Cooper represented employers in applications for visas under the H2B visa program, which allows for the granting of a fixed number of visas for seasonal workers.

In the plea agreement, Cooper admitted to the fraudulent creation of shell companies in the name of which Cooper would apply for visas to be used for other companies, to issuing bogus letters intended to deceive law enforcement as to the immigration status of his client’s workers, and to the outright purchase of visas from other contacts to be illegally transferred to his client’s workers, according to the Business Journal.

In 2004 and 2005 alone, Cooper took in at least $50,000 in legal fees from clients in the trucking industry using these techniques, the newspaper reported.