U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently publicized an undercover operation that resulted in three indictments charging eight individuals with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. As part of the scheme, ICE said, the defendants/recruiters assisted foreign citizen “students” in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from a fake school that ICE set up and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, to deceive immigration authorities.
This action followed an undercover investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Six of the defendants were arrested in the metropolitan Detroit area. Two others were arrested in Lake Mary, Florida; and Culpeper, Virginia.
According to the indictments, from approximately February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants, a group of foreign citizens, conspired with each other and others to facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll in a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI special agents as part of an undercover operation.
The documents obtained as a result of the conspirators’ actions were based on false claims, false statements and fraud, ICE said, since the purported foreign students had no intention of attending school, did not attend a single class, and were not bona fide students. All participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes, the agency said. “The defendants intended to help shield and hide their customers/’students’ from United States immigration authorities for money and collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme,” ICE noted. If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.