US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) violated Facebook policy by creating fake social media profiles tied to the University of Farmington, a sham university it created to identify people committing immigration fraud.
More than 600 students, nearly all Indian citizens, were caught up in the scheme, which the Guardian has found included fake Facebook profiles created by the nation’s second largest federal investigative agency, Ice’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.
“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page,” a Facebook representative told the Guardian. “Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”
Starting in 2015, undercover agents built the Michigan school’s facade, with a fake website, government documents that confirmed it was eligible to enroll foreign students and fake Facebook accounts, including supposed staff members. In a January indictment, the government accused students of enrolling in the school to stay in the country illegally, knowing that the institution was a sham.
In a network of suspicious Facebook accounts linked to the University of Farmington, the college’s alleged president, Ali “AJ” Milani, liked the Michigan Jaguars sports club and had a 51-person friend list that was mostly people from south Asia, despite Milani ostensibly living in Detroit. Carey Ferrante, who did not list any link to the school but had interactions with persons interested in it, posted three photos of herself that were actually stock photos, including one of a faceless woman in a bikini, and sent Facebook messages to at least one person.
These two accounts were friends with several other people whose Facebook albums were filled with stock photos and whose friends’ lists were overwhelmingly people from south Asia.
Edward Bajoka, an attorney for one of the eight people criminally indicted in the case, Avinash Thakkalapalli, confirmed the government owned Ali “AJ” Milani and Carey Ferrante’s accounts.
By Amanda Holpuch for THE GUARDIAN
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