10 Indian-Americans among 21 arrested for visa fraud in US

Washington, April 6: Ten Indian-Americans are among 21 people arrested as part of a sting operation in which a fake university was created by US authorities to expose a visa scam that allowed more than 1,000 foreigners to maintain student and work visas.

In a nationwide sweep federal authorities arrested 21 people in New York, New Jersey, Washington and Virginia. "These defendants arranged to obtain visas by having individuals enroll in a fake university. Unfortunately for them, that fake university was run by undercover agents of the Department of Homeland Security," Paul J Fishman, US Attorney for New Jersey, said.


The arrested people were brokers, recruiters and employers who unlawfully and fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain student visas and foreign worker visas for approximately 1,000 foreign nationals from 26 countries.

It is learnt that a large number of students who received necessary visa and permits to work in the US as a result of the sting operation for which they reportedly paid huge sums of money are from India. Officials, however, did not give the number of Indian students who were trapped by this year-long sting operation done by immigration and law enforcement authorities.

While the US Government did not reveal the nationality of the arrested people, names released by authorities indicate that 10 of them are either Indians or of Indian-origin. Those name include: Tajesh Kodali, Jyoti Patel, Shahjadi M Parvin, Narendra Singh Plaha, Sanjeev Sukhija, Harpreet Sachdeva, Avinash Shankar, Karthik Nimmala, Govardhan Dyavarashetty and Syed Qasim Abbas.

These people arrested for their involvement in an alleged scheme to enroll foreign nationals as students in the University of Northern New Jersey, a purported for-profit college located in Cranford, New Jersey (UNNJ).

Unbeknownst to the defendants and the foreign nationals they conspired with, the UNNJ was created in September 2013 by special agents of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). "Pay-to-Stay schemes not only damage our perception of legitimate student and foreign worker visa programmes, they also pose a very real threat to national security," Fishman said.

The HIS sting investigation was carried out to unearth the unauthorised networks and educational institutions that are "nothing more than sham visa mills", he said, adding that these educational institutions have no curriculum, no classes, no instructors and no real students.

"These purported schools and their corrupt administrators simply give out I-20 forms in exchange for payment," he said.


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