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US ‘pay-and-stay’ immigration scam: 129 Indians arrested

US ‘pay-and-stay’ immigration scam: 129 Indians arrested

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 02 Feb 2019, 09:20 am

Washington, Feb 2 (IBNS): US authorities have arrested 130 people, including 129 Indians, in connection with the investigation into the  “pay-to-stay” immigration fraud incident till Thursday, media reports said on Saturday.

According to reports, the arrested people have all enrolled at a fake university ran by undercover agents in Detroit, Michigan.

As per Hindustan Times report, the arrested Indians have been placed in “removal proceedings” — marked for deportation, in other words — and will remain in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) until the conclusion of their case by immigration courts.

“As of yesterday morning, ICE had administratively arrested 130 foreign nationals enrolled at the University of Farmington for civil immigration violations,” Carissa Cutrell, a spokesperson for ICE, wrote in an email as reported by the newspaper. 

US prosecutors on Thursday has announced the arrest of eight individuals of Indian descent  for using the fake university.

"Six of the defendants were arrested in metro Detroit. Two others were arrested in Lake Mary, Florida; and Culpeper, Virginia," read a statement issued by the  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

These eight people were identified as Barath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary; Suresh Kandala, 31, of Culpeper; Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky; Prem Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina; Santosh Sama, 28, of Fremont, California; Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta, Georgia; and Naveen Prathipati, 26, of Dallas, Texas.

According to the indictments, from approximately February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants, a group of foreign citizens, conspired with each other and others to facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI special agents as part of an undercover operation.

As part of the scheme, the defendants/recruiters assisted foreign citizen “students” in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities.

The illegal documents obtained as a result of the conspirators’ actions were based on false claims, false statements, and fraud since the purported foreign students had no intention of attending school, nor attended a single class, and were not bona fide students.

All participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes.

The defendants intended to help shield and hide their customers/"students" from United States immigration authorities for money and collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme, read the statement.

"We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused,” stated United States Attorney Matthew Schneider.

The Indian government has issued hotline number for assistance and queries related to the detention of Indian students in the US.

US ‘pay-and-stay’ immigration scam: 129 Indians arrested

India Blooms News Service
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