91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

DHS: Fake University of Farmington snared hundreds in fraudulent immigration scheme

Judge's gavel with books

The Department of Homeland Security set up a fake university in Farmington Hills to uncover what it describes as a nationwide illegal immigration scheme. Eight individuals from around the country were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit.

According to newly unsealed indictments the suspects conspired to enroll hundreds of foreign students in the university. The indictments say everyone involved knew that the university had no instructors or classes. The university was operated by undercover agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The suspects are accused of recruiting hundreds of foreign citizens in exchange for kickbacks and other benefits. ICE says the purpose of the alleged scheme was to obtain student visas. The indictment says, "From approximately February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants, a group of foreign citizens acting in concert with each other and others, assisted at least 600 other foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter, and work in the United States, and actively recruited them to enroll into a fraudulent school as part of a 'pay to stay' scheme. Because of their recruiting success, this alliance collectively profited in excess of quarter of a million dollars."

Students who are not U.S. citizens can enroll at colleges in the United States under an F-1 non-immigrant visa. This visa does not offer a direct path to U.S. citizenship. However, if a student receives an employment offer from a company willing to sponsor them to remain in the country, they could become eligible for an H1B visa. With assistance from their employer sponsor, the H1B visa holder can petition to become a lawful permanent resident, or a "green card" holder, and ultimately become a naturalized citizen of the United States. 

ICE says that the individuals named in the indictment facilitated enrollment of foreign "students" in the school and creation of documents needed to support their visa applications. 

Catherine Shaffer joined Michigan Radio in 2014. She works in the newsroom and specializes in stories related to the life sciences, health, and technology. Catherine earned a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from Michigan State University and a Master’s from University of Michigan. Prior to Michigan Radio, Catherine has worked as a freelance writer, mainly in focusing on biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, since 2001. She is also an award-winning fiction writer. When not at work, Catherine enjoys being in the outdoors and practicing yoga.