The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allegedly operated a fake university and job program in order to draw out potentially undocumented immigrants, as first reported in a Detroit Free Press, and then Newsweek.
Eight people were arrested for either visa fraud or harboring immigrants for profit at the University of Farmington. The university was a fake institution in Farmington Hills, Michigan. According to the school’s website, the university began in the 1950s in order to provide returning WWII veterans with an education.
Indictments claim that the defendants helped about 600 “foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme.”
Allegedly, Homeland Security operated the “university” from February 2017 to January 2019. The defendants “conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents as part of an undercover operation.”
Several undercover agents working for Homeland Security were planted in the school to lure students to obtain visas which must be approved by the DHS.
“We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement.
The university was constructed by DHS for students from outside the U.S. who chose to remain in the states by becoming students at an American university.
Students reportedly came to the U.S. legally, but enrolled in the school so they could stay and work, according to an ICE official.
Those charged in the indictments were Barath Kakireddy from Lake Mary, Florida; Suresh Kandala from Culpeper, Virginia; Phanideep Karnati from Louisville, Kentucky; Prem Rampeesa from Charlotte, North Carolina; Santosh Sama from Fremont, California; Avinash Thakkallapally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Aswanth Nune from Atlanta, Georgia; and Naveen Prathipati from Dallas, Texas.
They are being accused of getting cash, kickbacks, and tuition credits for their part in the scheme.