They marketed their university as a graduate program in technology and computer studies and even registered with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The university was incorporated in January 2016. Those who ran the university hauled millions of dollars in tuition and fees, charging an average of $1,000 each month. There was just one huge problem.
That problem was that members of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) peopled the fake university sting. Some of the programs combined classes and work programs at valid companies. Thus far, the sting has netted 250 students, according to The Detroit Free Press.
ICE attorneys and the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that the foreign students should have realized this was not a legitimate university. They claimed they should have known this given it had no physical location.
The agents even arrested students who realized that the university had no on-site classes and transferred to a better university. A Texas attorney representing or advising some of these students said:
‘They preyed upon them. They made a lot of money.’
Another student recruited Prem Rampeesa, 27, into the university, by telling him he could get course credits for recruiting other students.
Rampeesa came to America on a student visa. Earlier, he earned a master’s degree in computer science at a different school, Northwester Polytechnic University. However, after spending $40,000 for tuition and fees, the now-defunct university lost its accreditation. That situation threw his immigration status into at-risk.
According to his attorney Wanda Cal, Rampeesa pled guilty to “conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbor aliens for profit.” He received a sentence of one year in prison but had already served 295 days. After he servese out the remaining days, officials will deport him to India.
Cal told the judge that he was trying to “help his family back home. My client is very remorseful. He is really a good person caught up in a bad situation.’
Rampeesa wrote for his appearance before the judge that he was trying to stay in the U.S. after his previous university’s loss of accreditation made his master’s degree “worthless:”
‘I am ashamed. I made a very bad decision” to recruit students that “bought shame to my family name.’
In court, Rampeesa’s attorney, Cal, said his client had no criminal record and came from a rural background in India. Most of the fake school’s students were from Telugu-speaking areas in India.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote a sentencing memo for him:
‘Their true intent could not be clearer. While ‘enrolled at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.’
In federal prosecutor Baker’s memo, he wondered what would happen to the “foreign-student visa program.” He wrote:
”immigration and visa programs have been hot-button topics in the United States for years and national scrutiny has only been increasing. Fairly or unfairly, Rampeesa’s conduct casts a shadow on the foreign-student visa program in general, and it raises questions as to whether the potential for abuse threatens to outweigh the benefits.’
Asssistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Waterstreet joined Baker in court.
‘The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has taken offline the website of the University of Farmington, which it had created for a sting operation. The website was taken down on Jan. 31, 2019 after a federal indictment was unsealed on Jan. 30. The website for the fake university now contains a logo for the investigative unit of ICE and reads: “The University of Farmington has been closed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.’
No one has filed a lawsuit or claim against ICE for making money off of or entrapping the unwitting students. Maybe, they should.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.
The Mueller Report Adventures: In Bite-Sizes on this Facebook page. These quick, two-minute reads interpret the report in normal English for busy people. Mueller Bite-Sizes uncovers what is essentially a compelling spy mystery. Interestingly enough, Mueller Bite-Sizes can be read in any order.