Homeland Security agents created a fake university in Michigan to attract foreign nationals who wanted to use student status to extend U.S. visa privileges, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday. The University of Farmington didn’t have any professors or hold any classes — but that didn’t matter to “students” who used the sham school to stay in the U.S. illegally, the government says.
Officials say the university attracted recruiters who were paid thousands of dollars for connecting students to the bogus school, which had an actual office space in Farmington Hills, Mich. Eight alleged recruiters are now under arrest, and dozens, if not hundreds, of people who enrolled could face charges and/or deportation as part of an undercover operation that began in 2015.
Posing as the university’s owners and staff, agents from Homeland Security Investigations worked with the recruiters to gather false student records, including transcripts, to deceive immigration authorities, according to the indictment. HSI operates within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The complex sting operation resulted in the arrest of eight men who now face felony charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. They are Barath Kakireddy, Suresh Reddy Kandala, Phanideep Karnati, Prem Kumar Rampeesa, Santosh Reddy Sama, Avinash Thakkallapally, Naveen Prathipati and Aswanth Nune.
“Six of them were arrested in metro Detroit, one in Florida and another in Virginia,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
A grand jury indicted the alleged recruiters on Jan. 15, but those records remained sealed until Wednesday.
By BILL CHAPPELLT for N P R
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