Jail term for fraudster behind U.S. university scam

The fraudster behind an elaborate, India-focused immigration scam linked to California-based Tri-Valley University (TVU) was handed a 16-year jail term this week, after being convicted on 31 counts of fraud, alien harbouring, money laundering and several others.

This week Susan Xiao-Ping Su (44) was sentenced to 198 months in prison for her role in running the sham university in Pleasanton, which in January 2011 imploded spectacularly and left 1500 or so Indian student enrollees in legal limbo, with a number of them facing the prospect of deportation, an uncertain academic future and in some cases the indignity of wearing ankle radio tags.

In handing down the sentence to Su, the District Court for the Northern District Of California also required Su to forfeit $5.6 million and to pay $904,198.84 in restitution for the visa fraud scheme that she carried out as the founder and CEO of TVU.

Although a large number Indian students who unknowingly fell into Su’s scheme, many from Seemandhra and Telangana, were from middle class or poorer backgrounds, Su was said to have made over $5.6 million through her operation and she used seven money laundering transactions to channel these proceeds into commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz car, and multiple high-end residences in California.

The modus operandi of the scam that Su perpetrated entailed making false representations to the Department of Homeland Security through TVU’s use of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which is the U.S. system for monitoring the “F-1” student visa programme.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said that through her false representations, Su was able to unlawfully obtain and issue F-1 visa-related documents without regard to the students’ academic qualifications or intent to pursue a course of study required to maintain a lawful immigration status.

While Su was said to have admitted and maintained foreign student in exchange for tuition and other payments, she clearly exploited them too, and the DOJ noted that she not only demanded that these students assist her in making false representations to SEVIS, but also, “One of the harboured student employees testified that Su requested him to paint her house and to move furniture.”

While the TVU case raised a storm of controversy when news of the fraud broke in 2011, it has been followed by at least two further instances of university-linked immigration scams, in Herguan University, California, and the University of Northern Virginia, Virginia, and in both instances Indian students were again involved.

At the time The Hindu, among others, > underscored that systemic issues within the Department of Education’s assessment tools for such universities were at the heart of these repeated cases of immigration fraud, yet it is unclear whether these lacunae have been addressed yet.

Commenting on Su’s sentencing U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said, “Every year our country welcomes academically qualified students from all over the world to learn from our country’s best and brightest. The defendant’s scheme took advantage of this highly valuable immigration process, reducing opportunities for legitimate, worthy student applicants.”

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 3:40:18 AM |

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