Here's something you don't read everyday: The Department of Homeland Security has for years operated a fake university outside of Detroit to lure in illegal immigrants.
The Department of Homeland Security set up the University of Farmington, a fake university in Farmington Hills, Michigan to target foreign students who wanted to remain in the United States without proper authorization.
Federal agents used a fake Michigan university in an immigration sting that helped hundreds remain in the U.S. ille… https://t.co/0dFXI4yDiY— Rochelle Riley (@Rochelle Riley)1548883549.0
The University of Farmington bills itself as a credible university according to its website:
"Located in the heart of the automotive and advanced manufacturing center of Southeast Michigan, the University of Farmington provides students from throughout the world a unique educational experience."
"Our dynamic business administration and STEM curriculum allows students to rapidly apply their knowledge; preparing them to succeed in an ever-globalizing economy."
"We are very excited about welcoming you to the UF community and helping you achieve your academic goals. You'll find UF to be a vibrant and growing institution where students, faculty and staff enjoy a challenging and collaborative environment."
"UF has a rolling admission process and operates on a quarterly academic calendar. Students are encouraged to apply early to ensure a smooth transition to UF."
There are some problems with that. For one, the school's number directs callers to an automated message that tells them "we are either on another call, or are away from our desk" before disconnecting.
The "school" had active Facebook and Twitter pages that have been taken down since this story broke. Many posted photos were reportedly stolen from the social media accounts of actual colleges.
Federal agents deployed several other tactics to make the University of Farmington appear to be a legitimate school… https://t.co/DzR7dA3Pwq— Robert Snell (@Robert Snell)1548887243.0
Eight people have been indicted for "conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit," said the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Matthew Schneider.
Fake university set up by feds in Farmington Hills, MI, enrolled 600+ students, but there were no actual classes, s… https://t.co/n7FzHg5UBM— Niraj Warikoo (@Niraj Warikoo)1548884974.0
As The Detroit Free Press notes:
"Six of them were arrested in metro Detroit, one in Florida and another in Virginia. The students enrolled at the fake university with the intent to obtain jobs under a student visa program called CPT (Curricular Practical Training) that allows students to work in the U.S., said prosecutors."
"An indictment says the defendants 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 indictments were filed Jan. 15 and unsealed Wednesday. They allege that from February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants 'conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents as part of an undercover operation'."
"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."
The recruiters have been identified as Barath Kakireddy, of Lake Mary, Florida; Suresh Kandala, of Culpeper, Virginia; Phanideep Karnati, of Louisville, Kentucky; Prem Rampeesa, of Charlotte, North Carolina; Santosh Sama, of Fremont, California; Avinash Thakkallapally, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Aswanth Nune, of Atlanta; and Naveen Prathipati, of Dallas.
The indictment says they actively recruited 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, the indictment continues, "conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents as part of an undercover operation."
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The news has infuriated many.
This is so cruel. https://t.co/ZoSXc3hSSv— Brooke Binkowski (@Brooke Binkowski)1548886466.0
Just entrapping undocumented immigrants, nothing to see here. https://t.co/6R2JSltv0N— Tina Vasquez (@Tina Vasquez)1548887193.0
reading this and can't help but think about all the ways that people of color are punished for trying to interface… https://t.co/Vad3z3ic43— Deadlift Schrempf. (@Deadlift Schrempf.)1548888177.0
This "University of Farmington Hill" scam is absolutely disgusting. This is such a scum-wrenched tactic to target n… https://t.co/LcOTt4Dq9Y— Little Twink (@Little Twink)1548905626.0
This isn't the first time the government has done this either. In May 2016, The New York Times reported that the University of Northern New Jersey "was part of an elaborate sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 22 brokers who arranged for students to enroll."