Detained Indians plead not guilty in US court

World

05 Feb 2019

Indians arrested in 'pay-and-stay' scheme plead not guilty in US-court

The eight Indians, who were recently arrested for recruiting several hundred students mostly from India to stay illegally in the US by enrolling in a fake university, have pleaded "not guilty" before a federal court in Michigan.

One of them Phanideep Karnati (35), who is on H-1B visa and lives in Louisville, Kentucky, was released on a bond of $10,000 yesterday.

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Other accused

Eight Indians were arrested last Monday from Florida and Virginia

Eight Indians were arrested last Monday from Florida and Virginia

The seven others - Barath Kakireddy, Suresh Kandala, Prem Rampeesa, Santosh Sama, Avinash Thakkallapally, Aswanth Nune, and Naveen Prathipati consented to their continued detention before a judge in the Eastern District of Michigan, where they were produced along with Karnati days after their arrest.

They were arrested last Monday from Detroit, Florida and Virginia in a nationwide Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operation.

Accusation

Government entrapped people by carrying out sting operation, alleges Brusstar

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement also detained some 130 students, out of which 129 were Indians.

All of them pleaded "not guilty", John W Brusstar, attorney for Karanati told media over phone from Michigan.

He accused the federal government of entrapping people by carrying out such a sting operation.

"It was all choreographed," Brusstar said in response to a question.

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Karnati's bail

Karnati released on bail because of his good track record

Karnati released on bail because of his good track record

Except for Karnati, none of the seven Indians, arrested on criminal charges for recruiting foreign students to enroll in a fake university to illegally stay in the US, had hired an attorney on Monday.

All of them are in their late 20s or 30s.

Brusstar said that Karnati was released on a bail because of his good track record.

Punishment

If convicted, eight will face imprisonment of upto five years

An information technology engineer on H-1B visa, Karnati came to the US some 10 years ago.

If convicted he and seven others face imprisonment of up to five years.

According to the 16-page indictment, from February 2017 to January 2019, these eight Indians conspired to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the US.

Indians conspired to enroll foreign nationals into Framington University

The Indians conspired by actively recruiting the foreign nationals to enroll into a metro Detroit private university, Framington University. Unbeknownst to the conspirators, Framington University was operated by special agents of the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) as part of an undercover operation.

Reason

Recruiters created false student records for deceiving immigration authorities

Recruiters created false student records for deceiving immigration authorities

As part of the scheme, the defendants and recruiters assisted foreign citizen students in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities.

The illegal documents obtained as a result of the conspirators' actions were based on false claims, false statements because the foreign nationals weren't bona fide students.

Shielding students

Participants in scheme knew about the fake classes, said ICE

The documents were based on fraud since the purported foreign students had no intention of attending school and neither attended a single class.

The ICE said that all participants in the scheme knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes.

The defendants intended to help shield and hide their customers or "students" from United States immigration authorities for money.

About university

Foreign citizens used university as a 'pay to stay' scheme

Foreign citizens used university as a 'pay to stay' scheme

It came out that the defendants collectively profited in excess of a quarter of a million dollars as a result of their scheme.

The university was being used by foreign-citizens as a "pay to stay" scheme which allowed these individuals to stay in the US as a result of foreign-citizens falsely asserting that they were enrolled as full-time students in an approved educational program.

Indictment

Students intended to obtain work authorization under CPT program: Indictment

"Each of the foreign-citizens who enrolled and made tuition payments to the university knew that they wouldn't attend accrual classes, earn credits or make progress towards an actual degree in a particular field of study a pay to stay scheme," the indictment said.

"Rather their intent was to fraudulently maintain their student visa status and to obtain work authorization under the CPT-program," it said.

Approval

Students knew that DHS didn't approve the university's program

Students knew that DHS didn't approve the university's program

It claims that each student knew that the university's program was not approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was illegal and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others.

This is the second such case when the Department of Homeland Security has used a fake university to unearth a fake student visa racket.

Second case

ICE had arrested 21 from New Jersey for fake-university charges

In 2016, the ICE had arrested some 21 people on similar charges for a fake University in Northern New Jersey.

The ICE is a law enforcement agency of the federal government of the US tasked to enforce the immigration laws of the United States and to investigate the criminal and terrorist activity of foreign nationals residing in America.

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Department of Homeland Security

Fraud

Pay and Stay Scheme

United States of America (USA)

Aswanth Nune

Avinash Thakkallapally

Barath Kakireddy

CPT

Customs Enforcement

DHS

Eastern District

Eastern District of Michigan

Eight Indians

Framington University

Homeland Security Investigations

ICE

Immigration

India

Indians

John W Brusstar

Naveen Prathipati

New Jersey

Northern New Jersey

Phanideep Karnati

Prem Rampeesa

Santosh Sama

Suresh Kandala

United States

US

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