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ICE set up a fake University of Farmington to enroll foreign students



Emails from a fake university in Michigan show how Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers set up the school to enroll hundreds of foreign students in an attempt to crack down on immigration fraud.

The messages obtained by The Detroit Free Press show that the university portrayed itself as a “nationally accredited business and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) institution” to prospective students.

Emails obtained by the Free Press show interactions with Ali Milani, who is described in a LinkedIn profile as the president of the University of Farmington.

At the bottom of an email seen by the Free Press, the university was described as “a nationally accredited institution authorized to enroll international students by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

The sting led to 8 arrests of student recruiters

The Detroit News broke the news on the sting last month, reporting that ICE’s fake university led to the arrests of eight student recruiters on charges of participating in a conspiracy to commit visa fraud in order to help at least 600 foreign nationals stay in the US.

Most of the eight recruiters who were arrested are from India, but they all live in the US, the newspaper reported, adding that the recruiters didn’t know ICE was running the university.

The indictment said “the University was being used by foreign citizens as a ‘pay to stay’ scheme which allowed these individuals to stay in the United States as a result of foreign citizens falsely asserting that they were enrolled as full-time students in an approved educational program and that they were making normal progress toward completion of the course of study.”

Read more: ICE set up a fake university enrolling hundreds of foreign students as part of a sting operation

Emails obtained by The Free Press show how the university portrayed itself to recruit the students.

“Here at the University of Farmington we have created an innovative learning environment that combines traditional instruction with fulltime professional experiences. We offer flexible class schedules and a focus on students who do not want to interrupt their careers,” one email said.

ICE detained 146 students on immigration charges

Federal prosecutors allege that more than 600 students enrolled in the university knowing it was fake.

ICE has detained 146 students on immigration charges, the majority of whom are from India, according to the Free Press.

The students’ attorneys say their clients thought the university was real.

The attorneys and public records seen by The Free Press show that investigators with the Department of Homeland Security registered the University of Farmington with the state of Michigan as a university, listed it with a national accreditation agency, and placed it on a government-approved university of foreign students.

Prashanthi Reddy, an attorney in New York City, told the Free Press that the students were told they were following immigration laws.

“The students payed them the tuition fees and were trapped once they realized that classes were not being held, as some didn’t have the money to transfer and pay tuition at another university,” Reddy told the paper.

“Some did transfer out, some said they called and emailed the university and asked for SEVIS to be transferred but did not get a response, some others said they were reassured by the fact that the University was accredited and listed on the ICE website,” Reddy added, referring to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program known as SEVIS.

The Detroit News said this isn’t the first time federal agents have used a fake university to lure foreign students into a sting.

In 2016, DHS agents “used the fake University of Northern New Jersey to charge 21 people with student and work visa fraud.”

Business Insider intern Mariana Alfaro contributed to this article.

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