NEW YORK (Diya TV) — In one of the largest busts in the history of student visa scams, 21 brokers, recruiters and employers — the vast majority of whom are Indian or Chinese Americans — were arrested for allegedly conspiring to fraudulently maintain more than 1,000 student visas and obtain foreign worker visas through a “pay to stay” New Jersey college.
The arrests were conducted in New Jersey and Washington by special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Those who were arrested were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to harbor aliens for profit and other offenses. All of the accused, except for Yanjun Lin aka Aimee Lin, 25, of Flushing, New York, were ordered to appear on Tuesday in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven C. Mannion in federal court.
“‘Pay to Stay’ schemes not only damage our perception of legitimate student and foreign worker visa programs, they also pose a very real threat to national security,” Fishman said, according to the Justice Department. “Today’s arrests, which were made possible by the great undercover work of our law enforcement partners, stopped 21 brokers, recruiters and employers across multiple states who recklessly exploited our immigration system for financial gain.”
“While the United States fully supports international education, we will vigorously investigate those who seek to exploit the U.S. immigration system,” said Director Sarah R. Saldaña for ICE. “As a result of this operation, HSI special agents have successfully identified and closed a gap in the student visa system and have arrested 21 individuals alleged to be amongst the system’s most egregious violators.”
“Individuals engaged in schemes that would undermine the remarkable educational opportunities afforded to international students represent an affront to those who play by the rules,” said Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola for ICE Homeland Security Investigations. “These unscrupulous individuals undermine the integrity of the immigration system. Our special agents are committed to addressing, identifying fraud in order to better protect the system as a whole.”
According to the 14 complaints, the defendants, many of whom operated recruiting companies for international students, were arrested for their involvement in an alleged scheme to enroll foreign nationals as students in the University of Northern New Jersey, a purported for-profit college. However, the defendants were unaware that the university was a Sept. 2013 creation of HSI federal agents.
Through the fictitious university, federal agents investigated criminal activities associated with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, including, but not limited to, student visa fraud and the harboring of aliens for profit. The school at no point was staffed with instructors or educators, had no real curriculum and at no point had actual classes or educational activities. In fact, the university operated solely as a storefront, with small offices staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.