DHS Creates Fake University, Arrests 21 for Visa Fraud
Since 2002, Department of Homeland Security agents operated a fake university in New Jersey to catch individuals conspiring to commit visa fraud.
The 14-year sting operation paid off when earlier this week, 21 people who allegedly conspired with 1,000 foreign nationals to fraudulently obtain and maintain worker and student visas, were indicted.
The University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), a fake institution of higher education, was created to lure recruiters, brokers, and employers involved in “Pay to Stay” schemes looking for kickbacks in exchange for enrolling foreign nationals.
“‘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,” New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. “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.”
The defendants were arrested Tuesday morning and face an array of charges, including student-visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit.
The DHS-operated university had no faculty, curriculum, or classes, but would issue a Form I-20 which allows full-time foreign-national students to obtain an F-1 student visa.
Several defendants had their foreign national clients make payments disguised as tuition to the university. The defendants would then receive kickbacks or ‘commissions’ from the university, Fishman said. “Other defendants charged their clients thousands of dollars and then the defendants made sham tuition payments directly to the university. In one case, a defendant gave an undercover agent a $7,000 watch as ‘tuition fees’ for seven purported students.”
Authorities said the defendants went to great lengths–even setting up fake classrooms and having clients sign attendance sheets in different colored inks–to make a fake education look real.
The defendants face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and making a false statement.
For the full list of defendants and charges, view the DOJ statement.
Posted in The Takedown