NRI Pulse Staff Report
Atlanta, GA, February 4, 2019: Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta was among the five defendants who appeared in shackles and a prisoner’s jumpsuit in a U.S. District Court in Detroit, arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit as a recruiter for a fake university in Farmington Hills created by ICE.
The five defendants are among eight foreign nationals charged with visa fraud, six in Michigan. The sixth defendent, Prem Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina, is requesting an interpreter and is scheduled to appear in court later this week, reports Detroit Free Press.
A not-guilty plea was entered for the five defendants by Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen.
According to Nune’s attorney Michael Rataj, the Atlanta resident had moved to the U.S. in 2017 on a student visa. He had worked for Samsung and Sprint.
The students enrolled at the fake university with the intent to obtain jobs under a student visa program called CPT (Curricular Practical Training) that allows students to work in the U.S., prosecutors said.
The 130 students arrested so far in the “pay-to-stay” sting operation face only civil immigration charges.
“We have arrested 130 foreign nationals on civil immigration charges,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesperson Carissa Cutrell was quoted as telling the Detroit Free Press on Thursday.
Those students who knowingly participated in scam knowing it was not a genuine academic program face deportation.
Documents filed in court by federal prosecutors said as many as 600 students were enrolled at the fake institution, University of Farmington, set up by immigration officials for the sting operation to catch student visa fraud.
Prosecutors called it a “pay-to-stay” scam because the students paid the recruiters to get documents from the fake university to enable them to stay on in a student visa without attending classes.
Court documents show that the recruiters were paid between $5,000 and $20,000 at meetings with Homeland Security Investigations agents involved in the university for recruiting the students.