The U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) set up a fake university – University of Farmington – to nab foreign students who were trying to stay in the United States illegally.
Federal indictments unsealed in Detroit on Wednesday said that eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600″foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States.”
The defendants “actively recruited them to enrol in a fraudulent school as part of a ‘pay to stay’ scheme,” he indictment which was filed on January 15th and unsealed on Wednesday said.
The investigations began in late 2015 and continued till 2019 and was carried out by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), an investigative arm of U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), and also part of the DHS.
The operation allowed students to stay in the U.S. without proper visas. The U.S. alleges the students who enrolled “knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits or make academic progress toward an actual degree,” read the indictment.
“Each student knew that the University’s program was not approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was illegal, and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others,” it added.
The recruiters didn’t know the university was fake, however, and operated by federal agents, according to the documents.
The university had a now shutdown website that looked authentic, and also operated from an office complex in the area
Students involved in the case had come to the U.S legally, but transferred to the University of Farmington after they arrived in order to work, said an ICE official.
Charged in the indictments were:
- Barath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida
- Suresh Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia
- Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky
- Prem Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina
- Santosh Sama, 28, of Fremont, California
- Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
- Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta
- Naveen Prathipati, 26, of Dallas
The indictments alleged that those charged received $250,000 in cash and kickbacks to find students to attend the university.
The defendants even met with undercover agents and received money from them for recruiting students.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman.