More than 250 individuals have been arrested in Michigan this year as a result of a sting operation that involved a fake university created several years ago by the Department of Homeland Security.
According to a report from USA Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created the University of Farmington in an attempt to entice foreign-born individuals to attend a graduate program in technology and computer studies. Most of the individuals targeted by DHS were Indian nationals, according to the report.
Per USA Today, many of the individuals arrested have been deported from the United States to their home country, while others have chosen to fight for their right to stay in the United States. One individual has reportedly been allowed to remain in the country, as an immigration judge granted the person permanent residency status.
The individuals reportedly came to the United States legally by obtaining student visas, USA Today reported, but were later directed to leave the country once the university was revealed to be a creation of DHS and operated by officials pretending to be university administrations. Per the report, about 80 percent of the individuals who fell for the operation voluntarily departed the country, an ICE spokesperson said.
The 250 figure has grown substantially since the last reported statistic, which was previously reported as 161 students in March, per USA Today. Lawyers representing the students attempting to stay in the United States have accused the Department of Homeland Security of trapping the individuals, as the fictitious university was listed on the DHS website as legitimate. In addition, an accreditation agency assisting in the sting operation also listed the University of Farmington as a legitimate higher education institution.
While the 90 new arrests were reported this week, The Inquisitr previously reported on the existence of the fake university, located in Farmington Hills, Michigan, just outside of Detroit earlier this year. Per the previous report, the university was set up as a means to trap individuals known as “recruiters” who found individuals looking to stay in the United States. As USA Today noted, some individuals “transferred” to the fake university after the school they had been attending lost accreditation, a requirement of the student visa allowing them to legally remain the U.S.
The university was created by the U.S. government in 2016, per USA Today. The fake university reportedly brought in millions of dollars in profit from the students who had paid to attend. The fake school reportedly cost about $12,000 in tuition and other fees each year.
Lawyers representing ICE and the Department of Justice said the students should have known the university was fraudulent — despite its accreditation — because it never held classes in a physical location.
“Their true intent could not be clearer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms wrote in a sentencing memo for one of the recruiters involved in the operation, per USA Today. “While ‘enrolled’ at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services.”