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US Feds' sting has 1,000 Indian, Chinese students and brokers on visa hook
April 6, 2016

WASHINGTON: Ten Indian-Americans and 11 others suspected to be agents in a visa racket have been arrested on charges of committing fraud. They procured fake visas for a thousand foreign students, mostly Indian and Chinese, for admission at the fake University of Northern New Jersey. The US Attorney's Office announced the arrests on Tuesday. The agents face a jail term of up to 10 years.

In fact, the brokers as well as the beneficiary foreign students thought the university was all yet another sham set up to make money, but they had no hunch that the Federal immigration enforcement agency was doing an Indian style sting to trap visa fraudsters. The students wanted entry to the US and were not serious about higher studies. The university had no syllabus, nor classes, but an attractive website - now taken down - and a Facebook page. The website had a school seal looking like the Princeton's.

“‘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... 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,” New Jersey US Attorney Paul J Fishman said in a statement.

"Foreigners who used the services will likely not be prosecuted, but will have their visas revoked," Fishman said. The students will be deported.

The campus of the fake University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) floated by the Feds' undercover sleuths in 2013 is in New Jersey's Cranford, close to Manhattan. The rich and thickly populated New Jersey is a small northeastern American State on the Atlantic coast across the now famous Hudson river, having areas merging in New York city. The phony university was set up by undercover Federal agents to trap brokers and foreigners securing fake visas.

The varsity had no real teachers or syllabus or classes and this was known to the recruiting agents/brokers and the foreign aspirants as well. In fact, the undercover staff even took the agents into confidence that this is all a fraud like theirs to make money. They took it as all a big game to legitimise stay and citizenship later. Its so-called office was staffed by undercover agents who posed as school administrators.

Those arrested knew the school was bogus, as did the foreigners who pretended to be students there in order to stay in the US, officials said. But they didn't know it was set up as part of a sting by undercover agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The defendants (brokers) — seven from New York, seven from New Jersey, five from California, one from Illinois and one from Georgia — 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, the Department of Justice said.

- RM Nair

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