Indictment: Six people accused of recruiting foreign citizens to fraudulent university in ‘pay to stay’ scheme

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DETROIT — Six people have been indicted in connection with a “pay to stay” scheme that allowed at least 600 foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States.

According to the indictment, Avinash Thakkallapally, a 28-year-old Harrisburg resident (per the Detroit Free Press), and five others allegedly enlisted foreign citizens to enroll at a fraudulent school to maintain their non-immigrant status as “students” from approximately February 2017 through January 2019. The others indicted are Bharath Kakireddy, Suresh Reddy Kandala, Phanideep Karnati, Prem Kumar Rampeesa and Santosh Reddy Sama.

But unbeknownst to the six defendants — known as “recruiters” in the indictment — the fraudulent school, University of Farmington, was part of an undercover operation by the Department of Homeland Security. The university was not staffed, had no curriculum, no actual classes nor any educational activities, the indictment said. And the foreign citizens were well aware of this, intending to falsely assert they were full-time students to obtain jobs under a student visa program called CPT (Curricular Practical Training).

The indictment said the defendants profited from the scheme by exchanging cash, kickbacks and “scholarships” and tuition credits, for the enlistment of foreign citizens.

The indictment laid out more than a dozen instances between February 2017 and October 2018 in which the defendants were in contact with the undercover agents. Those conversations consisted of the alleged enrollment in the “pay to stay” university for themselves and others as well as money collection, among other things.

All six individuals face a count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harbor aliens for profit.

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