Farmington Hills MI February 1 2019 – Federal agents used a fake university in Farmington Hills to lure alleged phony foreign students who were trying to stay in the United States illegally.
The University of Farmington had no staff, no instructors, no curriculum and no classes but was utilized by undercover Homeland Security agents to identify people involved in immigration fraud, according to federal grand jury indictments unsealed Wednesday.
Eight student recruiters were charged with participating in a conspiracy to help at least 600 foreign citizens stay in the U.S. illegally, according to the indictments, which describe a novel investigation that dates to 2015 but intensified one month into President Donald Trump’s tenure as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.
Simultaneously Wednesday, federal agents arrested dozens of University of Farmington students in a nationwide sweep. The students were arrested on immigration violations and face possible deportation, according to a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Most of the recruiters and students involved are originally from India, according to prosecutors.“It’s creative and it’s not entrapment,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor. “The government can put out the bait, but it’s up to the defendants to fall for it.
”Those charged include:
• Bharath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida.
• Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta.
• Suresh Reddy Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia.
• Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky.
• Prem Kumar Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina.
• Santosh Reddy Sama, 28, of Fremont, California.
• Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
• Naveen Prathipati, 29, of Dallas.
“These suspects aided hundreds of foreign nationals to remain in the United States illegally by helping to portray them as students, which they most certainly were not,” said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations office in Detroit.
The eight defendants have all been arrested.Starting in 2015, the university was part of an undercover operation dubbed “Paper Chase” and designed to identify recruiters and entities engaged in immigration fraud, according to the indictment. Homeland Security agents started posing as university officials in February 2017.
Immigration crimes alleged in the indictment continued until this month and involved Homeland Security agents posing as owners and employees of the university. The university had a professional website, a red-and-blue coat of arms, a Latin slogan meaning “knowledge and work” and a physical location at a commercial building on Northwestern Highway.
The University of Farmington’s headquarters was in this office building on Northwestern Highway north of Inkster Road in Farmington Hills.