Student Visa fraud enforcement actions result in dozens of arrests in NJ, TX, OK
Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigative teams that included specialized counterterror agents arrested almost 50 students, visa overstay violators and document fraudsters in separate visa enforcement actions announced by the agency on June 5.
An ICE HSI operation in Texas and Oklahoma that concluded June 1, resulted in the arrests of 40 immigration status violators, visa overstays and foreign students were arrested for violating the conditions of their nonimmigrant visas, said the agency.
Nine people were arrested in New Jersey on charges they helped obtain phony visas and conceal illegal aliens in a wide foreign visa fraud ring.
Thu, 2012-06-07 08:26 AM
By: Mark Rockwell
Government Security News
In the Texas and Oklahoma enforcement operation, ICE HSI's Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU) made the arrests, said ICE. CTCEU is part of a national program designed to prevent terrorists and other criminals from exploiting the nation's immigration system, according to the agency. CTCEU also reviews the immigration status of known and suspected terrorists, combats criminal exploitation of the student and exchange visitor visa program, and leverages HSI's investigative expertise to identify national security threats, it said.
"The 9-11 tragedy identified how critically important it is for us to screen, track and enforce the student visa program in the United States," said David Marwell, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. "Maintaining the integrity of the student visa program is a significant segment of maintaining national security." Marwell oversees 128 counties in north Texas and the state of Oklahoma.
The 21 men and 19 women arrested in the TX/OK enforcement action were from 17 countries and included 15 Kenyans, one Saudi Arabian, one Yemeni and four Nigerians, as well as people from a number of African and Caribbean nations.
According to ICE, arrests were made in Edmond, OK., and a dozen north Texas cities, including Wichita Falls, Tyler, Lubbock, Amarillo, Abilene, Arlington, Prosper, Irving, Dallas, Plano, Carrollton and Mansfield. All have been processed for immigration removal proceedings, it said.
In addition to their immigration violations, ICE said three of those arrested falsely claimed U.S. citizenship, a felony that results in being permanently barred from legally re-entering the U.S.
In the New Jersey investigation, HSI special agents executed three search warrants, including two at school campuses located in Iselin and Jersey City. The nine defendants there were charged with conspiracy to obtain and use phony visas and conspiracy to conceal illegal aliens.
Court documents in New Jersey said Dhirenkumar Parikh, 34, the president, owner and registered agent of Iselin, NJ-based Vision Career Consultants USA Inc. (VCC) and co-conspirators defrauded the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) by providing foreign nationals, for a fee, the documents needed to obtain student visas, without verifying any of the foreign nationals' information.
VCC, said the documents, operates as an intermediary between students and various academic institutions within the United States, recruiting students for the institutions in exchange for a referral fee and assisting students with the application process.
Parikh and others allegedly ran the criminal enterprise through VCC and American Health and Technology Institute (AHTI), formerly known as "PC Tech Learning Center LLC," a school certified by SEVP to enroll foreign students. In addition to counterfeiting documents and falsely certifying that the foreign nationals had met AHTI's school admission requirements, the defendants allegedly falsified certified attendance records and actively assisted some students with hiding their prior violations of immigration law.
If convicted under the charges, the accused could face 15 years in jail and a half million dollars in fines, according to ICE.