Update on UNNJ cases
Two Recruiters Admit Scheme To Fraudulently Maintain Immigration Status, Obtain Work Authorizations For Foreign Clients Through “Pay To Stay” New Jersey College
NEWARK, N.J. – Two employees from a Somerset County, New Jersey, company today admitted recruiting foreign nationals to enroll at a “pay to stay” New Jersey college where they could fraudulently maintain their clients’ student visa status and get them full-time work authorizations without the clients having to attend classes, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Harpreet Sachdeva, 26, of Somerset, New Jersey, and Sanjeev Sukhija, 35, of North Brunswick, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to separate informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
On April 5, 2016, 22 brokers, recruiters, and employers, including Sachdeva and Sukhija, were charged with enrolling foreign nationals in the University of Northern New Jersey, a purported for-profit college located in Cranford, New Jersey (UNNJ). UNNJ was created in September 2013 by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). It was not staffed with instructors or educators, had no curriculum, and conducted no actual classes or education activities. It operated solely as a storefront location staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Sachdeva and Sukhij – Indian citizens who are present in the United States on foreign worker visas – were each employed at Right OPT, a purported international student recruiting and consulting company located in Somerset, New Jersey. Sachdeva was Right OPT’s business development, marketing, and operations manager. Sukhija was the company’s business development manager.
UNNJ represented itself as a school that, among other things, was authorized to issue a document known as a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students,” commonly referred to as a Form I-20. This document, which certifies that a foreign national has been accepted to a school and would be a full-time student, typically enables legitimate foreign students to obtain an F-1 student visa. With the visa, they can enter or remain in the United States while they make normal progress toward the completion of a full course of study at a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) accredited institution.
Sachdeva and Sukhija told Right OPT’s foreign recruits that for a fee, they could enroll at UNNJ without having to attend any classes and that their enrollment would enable them to fraudulently maintain their nonimmigrant status. With full knowledge that the recruits were not bona fide students and would not attend any courses, earn credits, or make academic progress toward any legitimate degree at UNNJ, Sachdeva and Sukhija caused Forms I-20 to be issued to the foreign nationals.
Sachdeva and Sukhija also caused the foreign nationals to be reported in government databases as legitimate foreign students. In order to deceive immigration officials, Sachdeva, Right OPT’s foreign clients, and others obtained and created fraudulent student documents, including attendance records and transcripts.
After enabling them to maintain their student visa status, Sachdeva and Sukhija also conspired to secure fraudulent work authorizations for some of their foreign clients. Both defendants admitted that their intention was to profit from the scheme by outsourcing these foreign individuals through Right OPT as information technology consultants with various businesses in the United States for commissions. In total, Sachdeva, Sukhija and others fraudulently maintained and attempted to obtain approximately 45 student visas and/or work authorizations.
The conspiracy to commit visa fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing for Sachdeva and Sukhija is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2017 and Jan. 10, 2017, respectively.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the leadership of Director Sarah R. Saldaña; HSI Newark, under the leadership of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit, under the leadership of Unit Chief Robert Soria; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Fraud Detection and National Security Section, under the leadership of Associate Director Matthew Emrich; the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, under the leadership of Deputy Assistant Director Louis M. Farrell; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Vermont Service Center, Security Fraud Division, under the leadership of Associate Center Director Bradley J. Brouillette; U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Fraud Prevention Programs, under the leadership of Director Josh Glazeroff; and the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the leadership of Timothy Gallagher in Newark, for their contributions to the investigation.
He also thanked the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), under the leadership of Executive Director Michale S. McComis, and the N.J. Office of Higher Education, under the leadership of Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle R. Hendricks, for their assistance. In addition, U.S. Attorney Fishman thanked the N.J. Motor Vehicle Commission and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Central District of California, Eastern District of New York, Eastern District of Virginia, Southern District of New York, Central District of Illinois, Peoria Division, and the Northern District of Georgia for their help.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis C. Carletta of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit, and Sarah Devlin of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit.
Defense Counsel (Sachdeva): Anthony Gualano, Esq., McAfee, New Jersey
Defense Counsel (Sukhija): David Oakley, Esq., Princeton, New Jersey