Feds Set Up Fake Mich. University in Immigration Sting
Homeland Security agents set up a fake college, the University of Farmington, to lure in foreign students allegedly staying in the U.S. illegally.
The University of Farmington in Michigan is not an accredited college in the U.S., but Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents used the fake university to find undocumented students.
The school didn’t have any professors or hold any classes – but the “students” were using the sham school to stay in the country illegally. The undercover operation began in 2015.
Recruiters were paid thousands of dollars for connecting students to the school, which had a real office space in Farmington Hills.
Eight recruiters have been arrested and the hundreds of people who enrolled could face charges or deportation, according to NPR.
Agents from HSI posed as university staff and worked directly with recruiters to gather false documents that were to be used to deceive immigration authorities, according to the indictment.
The indictment states that from early 2017 to January 2019, the men “assisted at least 600 other foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter, and work in the United States, and actively recruited them to enroll.” They referred to it as a “pay to stay” scheme.
The alleged recruiters would frequently collect payments ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.
“Because of their recruiting success, this alliance collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars,” the indictment states.
Officials believe the immigrants entered the U.S. through an F-1 student visa, using the fake school to maintain the visa and get work authorization.
To lure in the defendants, the University of Farmington advertised that it was “approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll international students.” This was seen on the school’s website which has since been taken down.
This is not the first time DHS has set up a sting operation like this to uncover undocumented students. In 2016, agents set up Nothern New Jersy University, another fake university, and charged 21 recruiters who helped over 1,000 “students” remain in the country illegally.
The idea that this operation was a form of entrapment has been entertained. Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, however, says no.
“It’s creative and it’s not entrapment,” said Henning. “The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.”
According to the indictment, the recruiters did not know the university was fake, but the students did.