In a sting operation spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security in New Jersey, operatives from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency created a fake university profile to attract and arrest criminal visa brokers. The operation led to the successful arrest of 21 individuals, who have been charged with student and work visa fraud.
On the surface, the University of Northern New Jersey looked like your regular college in the United States, with a campus located in Cranford, New Jersey, some 22 miles south of New York. It also had a friendly-looking website and Facebook page (both of which have since been shut down), complete with a fictional coat of arms bearing the words, “Humanus, Scientia, Integritas.” However, UNNJ had no professors or instructors, no curriculum, and no classes or other educational activities.
Instead, undercover agents from the ICE posed as corrupt administrators looking to work with unscrupulous brokers and scam foreign students wanting to enter the country on student visas.
The Department of Justice reports that after the ‘university’ was set up in 2013, individuals posing as visa brokers collaborated with the undercover school administrators to defraud potential students, with both parties fully aware that UNJJ was an entirely made up learning institution.
Naturally, word spread of the university administrators accepting money in exchange for false student visas and documents. In a Newark press conference detailing the sting operation, Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, said, brokers “descended on the school” asking to start enrolling their multiple student clients from outside the country.
“As alleged in the complaints, these defendants were brokers, recruiters, and employers who unlawfully and fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain student visas and foreign worker visas for approximately 1000 foreign nationals from approximately 26 different countries,” Fishman said.
The arrests were part of a 3-year operation to crack down on visa mills, a scheme where foreign nationals use student visas a means of entering the country and even finding employment. In this recent arrest, brokers recruited students who would “pay to stay,” a system of enrolling in a learning institution to obtain student immigrant status. Most of the students recruited by the brokers were from India and China, and were presently in the U.S. on student visas but were trying to find ways to extend their stay. Some brokers even managed to provide illegal work visas and job placements, with a number of illegal visa holders managing to secure positions in large corporations.
Fishman notes the fake university was just a way to extend their ‘pay to stay’ tour.
The 21 arrested brokers were a mix of naturalized citizen and permanent residents from New Jersey, New York, California, Illinois, and Georgia.
If you or anyone you know has been the victim of these student visa mills, learn about your rights through a consultation with the legal team of Lyttle Law Firm. Act quickly to minimize damage. Call our offices at 512-215-5225 or visit our website.