Indians arrested, students detained in U.S. on visa fraud charges

They allegedly assisted foreign ‘students’ in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the varsity and facilitated the creation of false student records.

At least eight people – all either Indian citizens or of Indian origin – have been arrested across cities in the U.S. in connection with visa fraud charges according to the US District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, a statement from the office of U.S. Attorney for the District, Matthew Schneider, said. Six arrests were made in Detroit, one in Florida and one in Virginia.

In addition to the eight, an unspecified number of Indian students have been detained by the Department of Homeland Security in connection with the above case.

The indictments unsealed on Wednesday charged the eight individuals, “a group of foreign citizens”,  with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbour aliens for profit. [It is highly likely that all eight are Indian citizens based on their names , their characterisation in the charge-sheet and discussions The Hindu has had with sources].

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents had posed as owners and employees of the University of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Michigan, approximately between June 2017 and January 2019 as part of an undercover operation to uncover immigration fraud, the indictment says. Students would pay to enroll in the University, giving the appearance that they were in approved educational programmes and making normal progress towards getting a degree. However, the University neither had faculty nor any classes, the indictment says, and the students were aware of this. The “pay to stay” scheme allowed them to maintain their student visa (F-1) status and obtain work permits as part of the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) option open to qualified F-1 visa students.

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