Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) netted hundreds of illegal immigrants after setting up a fake university, according to the The Detroit News.
The University of Farmington had no staff, no instructors, no curriculum and no classes but was utilized by undercover Homeland Security agents to identify people involved in immigration fraud, according to federal grand jury indictments unsealed Wednesday.
Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictments, which describe a novel investigation that dates to 2015 but intensified one month into President Donald Trump's tenure as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration. -The Detroit News
Dubbed operation "Paper Chase," the scheme used undercover Homeland Security agents to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud - which collectively received $250,000 in cash and kickbacks to located students to attend the university, according to the indictment.
"... the university was being used by foreign citizens as a 'pay to stay' scheme which allowed these individuals to stay in the United States as a result of of foreign citizens falsely asserting that they were enrolled as full-time students in an approved educational program and that they were making normal progress toward completion of the course of study," reads the indictment.
Fraudulent immigration papers were compiled by the recruiters, who would use them to help foreign citizens create fake records, including transcripts, according to prosecutors.
"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," said US Attorney Matthew Schneider.
Federal agents arrested dozens of University of Farmington students last Wednesday in a nationwide sweep connected to the arrest of the recruiters. "Students" were brought in on immigration violations and face deportation, according to ICE.
"It’s creative and it’s not entrapment," said Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor, Peter Henning. "The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it."
Those charged include:
• Bharath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida.
• Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta.
• Suresh Reddy Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia.
• Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky.
• Prem Kumar Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina.
• Santosh Reddy Sama, 28, of Fremont, California.
• Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
• Naveen Prathipati, 29, of Dallas.
Starting in 2015, the university was part of an undercover operation dubbed "Paper Chase" and designed to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud, according to the indictment. Homeland Security agents started posing as university officials in February 2017.
Immigration crimes alleged in the indictment continued until this month and involved Homeland Security agents posing as owners and employees of the university. The university had a professional website, a red-and-blue coat of arms, a Latin slogan meaning "knowledge and work" and a physical location at a commercial building on Northwestern Highway. -The Detroit News
The University of Farmington was based in the basement of a Detroit office complex across from the building's café. According to Matt Friedman, co-founder of the Tanner Friedman strategic communications firm located next door, the university was highly suspect.
"I was like 'what is this?" Freeman said last Wednesday. "I'd never heard of it before and never saw anybody there. The whole thing was just odd."
Of course- if Homeland Security is looking for illegals going to school in the US, maybe ICE should also check out the undocumented student services center at UCSD, UCLA, UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley or any other similar offices across the country.