In an unusual and commendable move, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) established a phony visa mill, created a network of recruiters for it, and then arrested 21 of the conspirators yesterday.
ICE established the totally imaginary University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), which was described to recruiters of foreign students as having no classes, and then watched as these recruiters (for a fee) enrolled "students" in the scheme. Since the whole enterprise was known as a fraud to everyone concerned — recruiters, brokers, "students", and some employers of the "students" — all were clearly participating in illegal activity.
The "university" was located at 25 Commerce Drive, in Cranford, N.J.; the "campus" is about 100 yards east of the Garden State Parkway.
The 21 were identified in an ICE press release as "amongst the system's most egregious violators".
The 21 alleged conspirators, who had a mix of Chinese and Indian names, were located in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. The last two on the list were the only two of the set to be charged with H-1B Visa Fraud — details on that aspect of the case were not self-evident in the press release.
The release stated: "Through various recruiting companies and business entities located in New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York, and Virginia, the defendants then enabled approximately 1,076 of these foreign individuals — all of whom were willing participants in the scheme— to fraudulently maintain their nonimmigrant status in the U.S. on the false pretense that they continued to participate in full courses of study at the UNNJ."
The University of Northern New Jersey is listed among the approved schools on the website of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program — or was the last time I looked — and it bears a phone number, which I called.
The person who answered the phone, who called herself Ann, seemed not to know anything about the sting and said that her outfit was an answering service in Cranford, N.J., but that the university is "not one of our companies." Maybe the feds did not set up a phone answering system, or maybe the number on the SEVP list of schools was a wrong number.
A second call to the number got an angry reception: "Don't call us, call them."
The story will be covered on ABC-TV national news tonight at 6:30 pm (eastern time) and there will be a story in the New York Times tomorrow.