The University of Northern New Jersey fielded no sports teams, held no graduation ceremonies and had no instructors, classes or degree programs. It did have a very attractive website that promised an exceptional education for foreign students wishing to study in the United States.
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The school was a sham from beginning to end and it was created by the US federal authorities who used it to arrest 21 people on charges they conspired to help more than 1000 foreigners fraudulently keep or obtain student or work visas over the past two and half years.
The defendants whose arrests were announced on Tuesday knew the school was bogus and did the foreigners who pretended to be students there in order to stay in the US. But they didn’t know it was set up as part of a sting by undercover agents from US immigration and customs enforcement.
Most of the foreign nationals who benefited from the alleged scheme hailed from China and India and were already in the US on non-immigrant student visas. They have been identified and will be dealt with by immigration authorities meaning they would face deportation but won’t be prosecuted.
The 21 people arrested were described as brokers, recruiters and employers. They were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and to harbor aliens for profit. The second charge carries up to 10 years in prison.
Most of the defendants are in the US legally and live in New York, New Jersey and California. Once lives in Illinois and one in Georgia.
The University of New Jersey’s elaborate website promised a high quality American educations to students from around the world. The site contained links to academic program; a message from the president; and photos of attractive young people sitting around a library table or consulting with a faculty member.
The site, which was taken offline even had a school seal that appeared to have been modelled on Princeton University except that a fake institution colors were bluish purple and green instead of orange and black. The university listed as its address a real building in Crandford about 24kms outside of New York City,
The middlemen under arrest paid the undercover agents running the school thousands of dollars to produce paperwork that made it look as if the foreigners were enrolled at UNNJ. That enabled the students to maintain their visa status without having to go to university class.
The arrest which were made possible by the great undercover work of law enforcement partners stopped 21 brokers, recruiters and employers across multiple states who recklessly exploited the immigration system for financial gain.
Immigration officials have investigated hundreds of suspected fake schools or visa mills in recent years. Some have led to charges. Officials at two schools in California and Georgia received prison sentence including one who got 16 years for visa fraud and other charges.
In the recent case, federal authorities set up their own bogus institution and once word got out about the place, the middlemen descended.
The accused were due to appear in federal court, and if found guilty they may face multiple years in prison.