The federal government arrested 21 people in connection with a racket that gave more than 1,000 student visas to foreign nationals. The fake visa holders are now working for companies around the the United States.
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Paul J. Fishman described the scheme as “pay for play.”
The arrests came at the end of of a three-year investigation. Arrests were made in New York, Washington, New Jersey, and Virginia by ICE and Homeland Security officials.
Law enforcement agents conducted the sting by setting up a fake university called the University of Northern New Jersey that provided work authorizations for hundreds of students.
Many of 21 people charged operated recruiting companies for purported international students, according to the U.S. attorney. They were arrested for their involvement in an alleged scheme to enroll foreign nationals at UNNJ, a fake for-profit college located in Cranford, New Jersey. The alleged scammers and the foreign nationals who obtained visas believed the school was real.
However, it was created in September 2013 by HSI federal agents, complete with a Facebook page and website. It never had classes, only offices staffed by federal agents who posed as school administrators.
The foreign individuals who received the fake visas, mainly from China and India, could “maintain” their immigration status on “the false pretense that they continued to participate in full courses of study at the UNNJ.”
“They did not know, nor did they care one wit, as to the students who were coming in what purposes they came into the country for and if they had any ill intent,” said ICE Director Sarah Saldaña at Tuesday’s press conference.
The “students” will be placed under administrative arrest and likely deported, reports ABC News.
Those who bought the phony papers work for the U.S. military, as well as Facebook, Google and other well-known companies, according to a law enforcement official. The buyers were “fully aware” they were acquiring fraudulent documents, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
On the other hand, the companies were unaware of the fraudulent documents.
Only a year and a half ago, an investigation revealed that the Department of Homeland Security lost track of more than 6,000 foreign nationals who entered the United States on students visas.