Founder of Fraudulent University that Preyed on F-1 Students Sentenced to Prison24 Nov 2014
Every year, thousands of foreign nationals enter the United States from around the world to take advantage of the unique academic opportunities offered by American universities. International students, most of whom enter the U.S. in F-1 status, have much to gain in the form of personal enrichment and career advancement by studying at our schools. The F-1 student program is heavily regulated, so students participating in the program must adhere to strict academic guidelines in order to remain compliant. To that end, foreign students trust their respective schools to maintain high ethical and scholastic standards. And when that trust is shattered, as in the recent case of the now-defunct Tri-Valley University (TVU), the results can be devastating.
Earlier this month, Susan Xiao-Ping Su, the founder and president of TVU, was sentenced to 16 years in a federal prison after being convicted on multiple charges, including visa fraud, alien harboring, and money laundering. After her home was raided in January 2011, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents confirmed that TVU had been charging international students $2,700 per semester for tuition and visa related documents that would allow them to remain in the United States. Although Su claimed that the students, most of whom were Indian nationals, were completing legitimate courses of study, evidence quickly surfaced that showed her university was a sham. Employees of the college indicated that there were no admission or graduation guidelines in place, and that Su had instructed them to falsify transcripts for students. Su’s indictment, as well as details of her lavish lifestyle, which included profits from the university of almost 6 million dollars, a Mercedes-Benz, and multiple properties, spawned angry protests by the All India Students Federation in front of the U.S. consulate in Hyderabad, India. [See Founder of Phony University that Bilked Millions from Students and Filed Fraudulent Visas Gets 16 Years, by Jason Molinet, New York Daily News, 4.Nov.2014.]
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators have claimed that many former students of TVU were aware that the school was fraudulent and took advantage of the program in order to be admitted to the United States and obtain work authorization. This is vehemently denied by hundreds of students who insist they were unknowing victims and faced serious immigration problems when Su was indicted in 2011. Although some students were able to submit applications to regain student status (often with the assistance of attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm), others voluntarily left the United States rather than face official removal (i.e. deportation) proceedings. Further, while ICE agents may be quick to place blame on these students, it should be noted that ICE is also the agency responsible for certifying TVU to admit F-1 students in the first place. [See California Woman Gets 16 Years For Running Fake University, Associated Press, USA Today, 4.Nov.2014. See also Factors for F-1 Students to Consider in Selecting a College or University, MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, 12.Nov.2014.]
Although the vast majority of universities in the United States are reputable, foreign nationals need to carefully research a school before enrolling. As can be seen from the TVU case, it only takes one unscrupulous collegiate official to wreak havoc in the immigrant community.
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