Federal agents who conducted a sting operation through a fictitious university, the University of Farmington, to nab recruiters and foreign students misusing and violating work and student visas, arrested eight Indian-origin recruiters.
The eight recruiters were scheduled to make initial appearances in federal court in downtown Detroit, reported Detroit News.
Those charged include:
- Bharath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida.
- Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta.
- Suresh Reddy Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia.
- Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky.
- Prem Kumar Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Santosh Reddy Sama, 28, of Fremont, California.
- Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
- Naveen Prathipati, 29, of Dallas.
The indictments unsealed on Wednesday charged the eight individuals with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbor aliens for profit.
Recruiters helped at least 600 foreign nationals illegally remain and work in the United States by recruiting them to enroll as students at the fake university, according to federal prosecutors.
The students, who federal agents say knew the university’s program was illegal, face deportation.
Detroit News reported that the University of Farmington president is a fictional character invented by federal agents who does not exist beyond a bare-bones LinkedIn profile. President Dr. Ali Milani, who is listed on the university’s state business filings, owns no property, has no relatives and has never voted, according to a public records database.
Milani was listed in state business filings as one of five officers and directors at the university. Like Milani, Treasurer Omar Parsi does not appear in a national public records database.
Federal agents in the New Jersey investigation invented a fictional president, Dr. Steven Brunetti.
The University of Farmington first appeared in state business filings in November 2015 as an assumed name of another company, International Schools of Michigan.
The University of Farmington has its own Facebook page, too, with a calendar of events, including one scheduled for next week with nonexistent university officials.
The Hindu reported that one of the eight defendants, Ashwanth Nune is alleged to have made in excess of $25,000 via the fraud, and assisted at least 18 other foreign citizens, as per the charge-sheet.
Nune, the charges go, enlisted foreign citizens at the university in return for cash, kickbacks, “scholarships” and course credit. He also allegedly helped foreign citizens maintain their student visa status and obtain employment authorization in the US.
The Indian Embassy in Washington and Indian Consulates across the country have been in touch with Indian community and Indian student associations in the US as well as US authorities to provide those detained with consular assistance, the Indian Embassy told The Hindu.
One of the “students” arrested, Babu (full name withheld on request) was taken away at dawn by DHS agents who knocked on his door at about 6.00 AM on Wednesday, Karthik (full name withheld upon request) , an engineer who shares a flat with Babu and a third female house-mate told The Hindu. The Hindu was able to verify Karthik’s identity based on work information he provided.
The agents asked Babu where he was studying, what he was studying and whether he was taking online classes. Babu answered the last question in the affirmative but could not name any professors.
At the University of Farmington, graduate tuition per quarter is an estimated $2,500 or $10,000 per year compared to some $36,000 per year tuition at Michigan State for those who cannot claim state resident fees, said reports.
The American Telugu Association (ATA) president, Parmesh Bheemreddy told The Hindu that affected students called up the ATA for guidance and help and the local ATA teams have reached out to Indian students Associations of various universities for counselling. The legal teams of ATA are also speaking to the affected students for legal help and counselling as they have been issued arrest warrants.