Prodee University/Neo-America Language School, Walter Jay MD Institute, The American College of Forensic Studies and Likie Fashion and Technology College are estimated to have taken $6m in tuition payments annually.
The indictment alleges that the four schools issued Form I-20s to bogus students who lived out of state and had no intention of attending
The three defendants – owner and manager Hee Sun Shim; Hyung Chan Moon, who assisted with operation and management of the schools; and Eun Young Choi, a former employee who also assisted with operation and management – were named in a 21-count indictment by a federal grand jury last week.
The indictment alleges that the four schools issued Form I-20s to bogus students who lived out of state and had no intention of attending.
Shim and Choi are also alleged to have created false student records, including transcripts, for some students in order to deceive immigration authorities. Shim is also purported to have transferred a student from one school to another to avoid arousing suspicion about students remaining in the US for long periods of time.
The indictment charges Shim, Moon and Choi with several counts including conspiring to commit immigration fraud, which carry charges of up to 20 years in federal prison.
“Given the implications for national security and public safety, we will move aggressively to target individuals who compromise the integrity of our nation’s immigration system out of greed and self-interest,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles.
“Simply put, those who exploit the benefits of the student visa programme can expect to get a lesson in criminal justice.”
Flags were raised when an unannounced visit to Prodee University in 2011 by SEVP’s Compliance Unit showed just one English class attended by three students, despite more than 900 students being enrolled, according to SEVIS records.
And a visit to ACFS on the same day found just one religion class in session, attended by one student, while SEVIS records indicated more than 300 foreign student enrolments.
The ensuing investigation identified “several dozen” foreign nationals who had entered the US as F-1 non-immigrant students to attend other SEVP-authorised schools, before transferring to Prodee schools.
“Officials at several schools allegedly abused their responsibility to ensure that only legitimate foreign students were allowed to the stay in the country”
“Immigration fraud schemes potentially compromise national security and cheat foreign nationals who play by the rules,” commented Acting US Attorney Stephanie Yonekura.
“In this case, officials at several schools allegedly abused their responsibility to ensure that only legitimate foreign students were allowed to the stay in the country,” she added.
Jennifer McEleney, Senior Vice President at English Language Center in LA said that she isn’t worried about the reputation of the sector overall as the “vast majority” of schools in the area operate legally.
“My feeling is that from a student’s perspective these instances will likely reinforce the importance of schools being recognised by accreditation and quality organisations like ACCET and IALC, especially considering such in their decision-making process, when choosing a language programme,” she commented.
“From a school’s perspective we can appreciate the effectiveness of the monitoring system,” she added.
Prodee and its affiliated schools can no longer access SEVIS, and HSI will seek to withdraw the schools’ SEVP certification, thus preventing it from enrolling foreign students.
The schools will remain open and students may continue to attend classes or transfer schools, but foreign students are being urged to contact SEVP for further information.