Education

Feds use fake university to nab 21 visa mill fraudsters

Posted April 16

Twenty-one middlemen who took the bait of a federal sting operation were caught with 1,000 illegal student visas last week, ABC News reports. The sting operation, which began in 2013, set up a fake university with an elaborate website for the University of Northern New Jersey, which did not exist.

According to the New York Times, the operation targeted "brokers" who made huge profits by recruiting foreign students, primarily from China and India, to "attend" institutions that do not provide real coursework, but instead just process student visas for a profit.

Foreign students get sucked in from abroad, luring students with gaudy websites to shoddy campuses that often do not offer accredited degrees. They may offer "internships," which are really low-level jobs that lead to nowhere.

"They did not know, nor did they care one whit, as to the students who were coming in what purposes they came into the country for and if they had any ill intent," said ICE Director Sarah Saldaña at Tuesday's press conference, as reported by ABC.

One of the more notorious "visa mill" cases involved a "school" in California. The San Jose Mercury News tells the story of Prasanth Goinaka, who traveled from India to attend a business school in the techy Bay Area, only to find that he was being sent to Oklahoma for an "internship" running a cash register at a gas station. He was subsequently murdered in a robbery, sparking outrage in his home country.

Some visa mills offer no education at all, simply rubber stamping visa applications for profit, allowing "students" to stay illegally in the country without attending school.

CBS SF Bay Area interviewed Lou Farrell, head of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP), who said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is cracking down. In the past few months, they have made multiple arrests, and the former president of Tri-Valley University in the Bay Area was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

“Any time you have a system that allows opportunities for students and criminal organizations to exploit it, they will,” Farrell told KPIX 5, the local CBS affiliate.

CBS SF Bay Area also interviewed Tim Kane at Stanford's Hoover Institute, who said that one of the 9/11 attackers was in the U.S. on an expired student visa.

“Terrorists aren’t going to go to Mexico and sneak across the border," Kane said. "They are going to get a legal visa. And what is the easiest legal visa they can get? It’s probably the F-1 student visa.”

Email: eschulzke@deseretnews.com

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