Eight people were arrested in an operation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement that set up a fake university in Michigan to nab foreign students who wanted to stay in the U.S. without proper authorization, according to federal indictments unsealed Wednesday.
The defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit, Matthew Schneider, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan said in a statement. If convicted, they face a maximum of five years in federal prison.
The University of Farmington credited itself as an “innovative educational program that melds modern instruction techniques with applied occupational experiences.”
On its website, the school boasted that it focuses on a STEM curriculum, with undergraduates offered programs in business administration and mechatronics.
Yet behind the scenes, the faculty was in fact undercover agents working with the Department of Homeland Security.
The eight people arrested had enrolled at the Farmington university with the intent to get jobs under the student visa program Curricular Practical Training, according to the Free Press. They allegedly helped at least 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.”
The defendants are said to have worked together from February 2017 through January.
“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’s website was taken down Thursday and replaced with a message that read, “The University of Farmington has been closed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”
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