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

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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.