DHS Accused of Operating Fake University in Michigan To Lure Illegal Immigrants

An admissions system to lure potential undocumented immigrants at a fake Michigan college, and subsequent jobs program, was apparently operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a Detroit Free Press report revealed Wednesday.

Documents uncovered through an investigation found that eight people were indicted and arrested for their involvement for visa fraud and harboring immigrants for profit at the University of Farmington, a faux institution in Farmington Hills, Michigan that supposedly sprung up in the 1950's to help returning World War II veterans further their education, according to the school's website.

Indictments uncovered Wednesday state the defendants aided about 600 "foreign citizens to illegally remain, re-enter and work in the United States and actively recruited them to enroll in a fraudulent school as part of a 'pay to stay' scheme."

The indictment alleges that from February 2017 to January 2019, Homeland Security operated this fake university, and the defendants "conspired with each other and others to fraudulently facilitate hundreds of foreign nationals in illegally remaining and working in the United States by actively recruiting them to enroll into a metro Detroit private university that, unbeknownst to the conspirators, was operated by HSI (Homeland Security Investigation) special agents as part of an undercover operation."

HSI falls under the Homeland Security Department's ICE program, or Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Though the school's website states it helps students further their education with STEM curriculum for an "ever-globalizing economy," the school was embedded with undercover agents working for Homeland Security and luring foreign students to obtain certain visas which must be approved by DHS itself.

"We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused," U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in a statement announcing the unsealed indictments.

The "fake" university was set up by DHS for foreign students who wanted to remain in the United States under the disguise as students at an American university.

On the "About Us" page of the website, it quickly points to its accreditation by the Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, and its approval by DHS and the Exchange Visitors Program.

The eight defendants are accused of receiving cash, kickbacks and tuition credits for their part in the "pay to stay" scam.

An ICE official said students involved in the sting operation had actually come to the country legally, but later transferred to the University of Farmington so they could work.

Houston immigration attorney Rahul Reddy said about 100 enrolled Farmington students were detained in Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston and St. Louis.

Charged in the indictments were:

  • Barath Kakireddy, 29, of Lake Mary, Florida
  • Suresh Kandala, 31, of Culpeper, Virginia
  • Phanideep Karnati, 35, of Louisville, Kentucky
  • Prem Rampeesa, 26, of Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Santosh Sama, 28, of Fremont, California
  • Avinash Thakkallapally, 28, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  • Aswanth Nune, 26, of Atlanta
  • Naveen Prathipati, 26, of Dallas

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman.