NEW YORK (TIP): In an undercover operation set up by the US government to catch visa fraud, US law enforcement agencies have arrested around 21 people, including 10 Indian Americans. The students now face probable deportation. So far, arrests have been made in New York, New Jersey, Washington and Virginia.
Mostly Indian and Chinese students are among over 1,000 people facing deportation from sting that saw 21 suspects being arrested on Tuesday, April 5, on felony charges that include conspiracy to commit visa fraud; they could face multiple years in prison.
“Foreigners who used the services will likely not be prosecuted, but will have their visas revoked,” New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman told reporters on April 5.
Federal investigators in 2013 set up the phony “University of Northern New Jersey”, which had a website that promised “exceptional” education for foreign students wishing to study in the US and provided links to academic programs, a message from the “president,” a Dr. Steven Brunetti, Ph.D.; and photos of attractive young people sitting around a library table or consulting with a faculty member.
According to an Associated Press report, federal prosecutors said that people who benefited from the scam were mostly from China and India. These students were already on student visas and further action regarding this would be dealt by immigration authorities — meaning they would be directly deported.
In addition to this, a sentence of five years and 10 years of imprisonment in H-1B visa fraud for illegally entering the US has also been issued.
As per the official sources, the Indian Embassy is in constant contact with the US government for seeking fair decision for around 370 Indian students. The embassy has also appealed the US officials not to arrest and deport the Indian students.
Last year, the US authorities cancelled the visa of students from India as many were seen enrolled in fake universities like Tri-Valley, and University of Northern Virginia, among others.
A statement from the office of US attorney for New Jersey stated that the University of Northern New Jersey, which was established in 2013, had no professors, no curriculum, and conducted no classes.
The statement also said that the university could issue I- 20s certificate that “operated solely as a storefront location with small offices staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.”
The arrested includes brokers, recruiters and employers, who have been charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud. The middlemen under arrest paid the undercover agents running the school thousands of dollars to produce paperwork that made it look as if the foreigners were enrolled at UNNJ, federal prosecutors said. This enabled the “students” to maintain their visa status without having to go to class.
Those arrested knew the school was bogus, as did the foreigners who pretended to be students there in order to stay in the US, officials said. But they didn’t know it was set up as part of a sting by undercover agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In the US, F-1 student visas allow foreign students to enter or remain in the country as they study.
Immigration officials have investigated hundreds of suspected fake schools, or “visa mills,” in recent years.