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Several Indian and Chinese students are among over 1,000 people facing deportation from the US after being caught in an undercover operation that involved a fake university set up by the US government to catch visa fraud.
"Foreigners who used the services will likely not be prosecuted, but will have their visas revoked," New Jersey US Attorney Paul Fishman told media.
Federal investigators in 2013 set up the phony "University of Northern New Jersey", which had a website that promised "exceptional" education for foreign students wishing to study in the US and provided links to academic programs, a message from the "president," a Dr. Steven Brunetti, Ph.D.; and photos of attractive young people sitting around a library table or consulting with a faculty member.
“Most of the arrested knew the school was fake, as did the foreigners who pretended to be students there in order to stay in the US. But they didn't know it was set up as part of a sting by undercover agents from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” an official said.
21 suspects were arrested of felony charges that include conspiracy to commit visa fraud; they could face multiple years in prison. The office was staffed by undercover agents who posed as school administrators. The website is now off line. The website even had a school seal that appeared to have been modeled on Princeton University's.
The middlemen under arrest paid the undercover agents running the school thousands of dollars to produce paperwork that made it look as if the foreigners were enrolled there, federal prosecutors said.
- The suspects are accused of marketing their services to foreign nationals primarily from China and India who entered the US on legitimate student visas and wanted to stay on.
- Immigration officials have investigated hundreds of suspected fake schools. In the US, F-1 student visas allow foreign students to enter or remain in the country as they study.
- The enrollment of international students in the U.S. has increased from 623,000 in 2007 to 974,000 in 2014 (56%) but the number of H1-B work visa has remained stagnant at 85,000 including 20,000 specifically for advanced degree holders from U.S. universities.