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Triple Lindy Press Conference
Hon. Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney
April 5, 2016
Good morning. I’m Paul Fishman, the United...
- 2 -
study. When that program ends – that is, when the student leaves the program or
graduates – the visa effectively exp...
- 3 -
agents posing as corrupt administrators. The school had no instructors or educators; it
had no curriculum; and no ac...
- 4 -
many other defendants in this investigation, Wen and Yuen paid undercover agents
thousands of dollars for phony acad...
- 5 -
sheets to create the illusion that they had attended actual classes. And she had them
do exactly that: some of her c...
- 6 -
purchased a lot of false documents from undercover agents and petitioned USCIS on
behalf of approximately 20 foreign...
- 7 -
I’m proud of the work that HIS and my office did. Today’s arrests, which were
made possible by the great undercover ...
Winiteb ~tates iiBistrict <!Court
iiBistrict' of ~e'w 3Tersep
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Hon. Steven C. Mannion
v.
SYED QASI...
ATTACHMENT A
Count One
(Hl-B Visa Fraud)
From in or about early 2014 through in or about late 2015, in Union
County, in th...
Count Two
(False Statements)
From in or about early 2014 through in or about late 2015, in Union
County, in the District o...
Count Three
(Conspiracy to Harbor Aliens for Profit)
From in or about early 20 14 through in or about late 2015, in Union
...
ATTACHMENT B
I, David A. Ferrante, am a Special Agent with the United States
Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Sec...
Program") for non-immigrants by falsely claiming that these aliens would be
employed at the School (hereinafter the "Forei...
b. An H-lB visa permits an alien to work in the United States
subject to certain requirements. The Hl-B Visa Program allow...
e. The United States Government issues H1-B visas based on a
random selection process, sometimes referred to as a lottery....
7. The Student Visa Program:
a. A foreign citizen who wishes to enter and remain in the United
States on a temporary basis...
e. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System
("SEVIS") is an internet based data system that provides users with...
Overview of the Schemes
8. The investigation, including information from open sources, reveals
that ABBAS is the primary o...
UC-1:
ABBAS:
UC-1:
ABBAS:
* * * *
[W]e put them in some classes for basically, for a
semester, showing that they've taken ...
ABBAS:
UC-1:
ABBAS:
project from you, like its ... 'we got this software
development project for you,' and on the basis of...
for individuals from Pakistan with tourist visas]. We
can give it to you [the business to the School], and plus
we can .. ...
Please confirm with me that this arrangement works for you [which
confirmation ABBAS provided in a subsequent e-mail].
13....
Employment Relationship:
While the consultant (A.A.M.] will work for us [the School] through
Fastnet Software Internationa...
School's letterhead and signed by UC-1) and a false receipt back to ABBAS. In
the e-mail, UC-1 stated the following, in su...
Wnitel.l ~tates tBistrict Q!:ourt
tBistrict of ~e'w jJersep
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ZHENG ZHANG,
a/k/a "Vicky Zhang" a...
ATTACHMENT A
COUNT ONE
(Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud)
From in or about June 2014 through in or about March 2016, in Uni...
COUNT TWO
(Conspiracy to Harbor Aliens for Profit)
From in or about June 2014 through in or about March 2016, in Union
Cou...
ATTACHMENT B
I, David A. Ferrante, am a Special Agent with the United States
Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Sec...
e. A co-conspirator not named as a defendant herein was a foreign
citizen who fraudulently maintained student visa status ...
intend to enter the United States on a temporary basis, such as for tourism,
medical treatment, business, temporary work, ...
d. To obtain an F-1 visa, a foreign citizen must first apply to
study at a school within the United States that has been c...
h. In addition to taking a full course of study at an accredited
institution, a non-ESL, F-1 student may also seek practic...
graduation, that F-1 student may have the opportunity to work full or part-
time CPT or QPT, in addition to taking classes...
call, UC-1 reiterated the terms of the proposed illicit agreement between ILlS
and the School. Specifically, UC-1 and ZHAN...
would make "tuition" payments to the School that corresponded to the length
of time that the purported foreign students we...
exchange for providing the watch to UC-1, the School could redeem the watch's
cost for seven of her clients' tuition fees ...
ee-1 to trick users into believing that ee-1 was lawfully enrolled in the
School and had lawful status in an effort to ind...
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Fake Pay To Stay New Jersey College DOJ DHS Joint Press Conference & Complaints April 5, 2016

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Fake Pay To Stay New Jersey College DOJ DHS Joint Press Conference & Complaints April 5, 2016

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Fake Pay To Stay New Jersey College DOJ DHS Joint Press Conference & Complaints April 5, 2016

  1. 1. Triple Lindy Press Conference Hon. Paul J. Fishman, U.S. Attorney April 5, 2016 Good morning. I’m Paul Fishman, the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey. With me are Sarah Saldana, the Director of ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – at the United States Department of Homeland Security; Terry Opiola, the Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations here in New Jersey; Brad Brouillette, the Associate Central Director of USCIS, and AUSAs Dennis Carletta and Sarah Devlin. This morning, based on 15 separate federal criminal complaints, agents of Homeland Security Investigations and other federal law enforcement arrested 21 defendants; one is still being sought. All of those defendants are charged with scheming to exploit our country’s immigration laws. As alleged in the complaints, these defendants were brokers, recruiters, and employers who unlawfully and fraudulently obtained or attempted to obtain student visas and foreign worker visas for approximately 1000 foreign nationals from approximately 26 different countries. How did they do it? Well, as the complaints allege, these defendants arranged to obtain visas by having individuals enroll in a fake university. Unfortunately for them, that fake university was run by undercover agents of the Department of Homeland Security. Here’s how it worked. By and large, United States law provides that visitors from foreign countries who want to stay in this country to go to school must have an F-1 visa, which is also known as a student visa. But those visa are necessarily temporary, and they last only as long as the foreign student is enrolled full-time in an approved educational program and is making normal progress toward completing a course of https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/pr/21-defendants-charged-fraudulently-enabling-hundreds-foreign-nationals-remain-united
  2. 2. - 2 - study. When that program ends – that is, when the student leaves the program or graduates – the visa effectively expires in 60 days. To get the F-1 visa, prospective students must get from the schools they attend a form known as an I-20. That form, issued by the school, certifies that the individual meets all of the standards of admission for the school, based on a review of the student’s application, transcripts, proof of financial responsibility, and other records. The form also certifies that the prospective students has been accepted for and will be required to pursue a full course of study. Now when this program works correctly, it’s terrific. Foreign students can enroll in Princeton, NJIT, Montclair State, Rowan or any of the many legitimate secondary and postsecondary and graduate schools throughout New Jersey and across the country. But as prior investigations and prosecutions have revealed, in many instances, the schools are nothing more than sham visa mills. They have no curriculum, no classes, no instructors, and no real students. These purported schools and their corrupt administrators simply give out I-20 forms in exchange for payment. This illegal practice is known as “pay to stay” because foreign nationals pay money to brokers and recruiters, like the defendants, to be enrolled in a school for the sole purpose of obtaining immigration status as a student—but with no intention of or interest in going to class or making any progress toward an academic degree. To catch these recruiters, HIS developed an undercover investigative strategy that involved the creation of a school called the University of Northern New Jersey or UNNJ. Although UNNJ was physically located here in New Jersey, in a real building in Cranford, the university was not a real school. Its only employees were undercover HSI
  3. 3. - 3 - agents posing as corrupt administrators. The school had no instructors or educators; it had no curriculum; and no actual classes or educational activities ever occurred there. As the complaints allege, once word got out, brokers descended on the school, clamoring to enroll their foreign student clients. But as the complaints also allege, the defendants did so while fully aware that those clients wouldn’t be attending any classes at the university, wouldn’t be furthering their educational goals, and wouldn’t be getting a degree. Instead, UNNJ was just another stop on the “pay to stay” tour. As you’ll see in the complaints, the undercover agents specifically told each defendant – in conversations that were secretly recorded – that the university was a sham devised to get immigration status for foreign nationals. For example, Kate Wen and Alvin Yeun [“Yoon”] were two of the recruiters charged in this case. During a consensually recorded conversation with Yeun, here’s what the undercover agents told him: You know that none of these people are going to class…. [J]ust, you know, between us, you know, you’re good with that right? Make sure your clients are good with it too, okay? I don’t want anybody, you know, showing up at my doorstep thinking they’re gonna be in my . . . advanced calculus class or anything like that. . . . That’s not gonna happen, right? We know this is just to maintain status. [Mag. No.: 16-6037, at ¶ 7]. And the complaint alleges that Yeun’s answer couldn’t have been clearer. Laughing, he admitted that “we’ve been doing this for years. . . .[n]o worries.” And so they recruited approximately three dozen foreign individuals to the School and collected huge commissions from those purported students. In addition, like
  4. 4. - 4 - many other defendants in this investigation, Wen and Yuen paid undercover agents thousands of dollars for phony academic transcripts and diplomas for their clients. Many of these fraudulent documents were then submitted by the defendants and their co-conspirator clients to US Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Department of State to obtain immigration benefits. In exchange for their illegal services, the defendants made money in several different ways. Some defendants had their foreign national clients make payments to the university – disguised as tuition – and then the defendants received kickbacks or “commissions” from the university. Other defendants charged their clients thousands of dollars and then the defendants made sham tuition payments directly to the university. In one case, a defendant gave an undercover agent a $7,000 watch as “tuition fees” for seven purported students. [US v. Vicky Zhang and Jack Lui, Mag. No.: 16-6039, at ¶ 11]. During the undercover investigation, several defendants became aware of other schools that had been shut down by federal agents for this some type of conduct in other districts. Several of these defendants discussed their concerns with the undercover agents. Some defendants even devised methods to throw off investigators to insulate themselves and cover up their involvement in what they believed to be a bogus school. For example, one complaint alleges that a defendant named Jeanette Shen was worried that federal authorities were tracking students because of heightened concerns about terrorism as a result of the Boston Marathon bombings. [Mag. No.: 16- 6035] So she allegedly suggested to an undercover agent that it would be beneficial for the university to set up phony classrooms and to have her clients sign fake attendance
  5. 5. - 5 - sheets to create the illusion that they had attended actual classes. And she had them do exactly that: some of her clients met with undercover agents and signed attendance sheets for the whole school year (and in different color inks, believing they would trick investigators in the event of an investigation). [Mag. No.: 16-6035, at ¶ 10]. To further complete the illusion, the complaints allege that virtually every defendant knowingly purchased fake documents from the undercover university, including fraudulent transcripts with made up classes and grades; diplomas; attendance sheets; student ID cards; sham receipts; and even phony parking passes. In the majority of instances, the undercover agents e-mailed blank templates to the defendants, who then – with their clients – filled in the phony information (such as classes and grades for transcripts) and e-mailed these false documents back to the agents. The agents then placed the university’s letterhead on the forms, printed and signed them, and e-mailed them back to the defendants. In addition to this “pay to stay” scheme, several defendants were involved in H1- B fraud, that is, visas that allow foreign nationals to lawfully work in the United States. These defendants requested that undercover agents create phony Information Technology projects at the university, like software development. Although the defendants were explicitly told by undercover agents that the university had no need for any such projects, at least three of the charged defendants requested and paid thousands of dollars for a variety of false documents from the university to trick USCIS into issuing H1-B visas to the defendant’s foreign national employees. For example, one defendant, Syed Abbas, from New York, is the owner of Fastnet Software International, an information technology staffing and consulting company. He
  6. 6. - 6 - purchased a lot of false documents from undercover agents and petitioned USCIS on behalf of approximately 20 foreign workers. None of these visas were issued. As I invite my friend Sarah Saldana to speak, I want to thank and publicly acknowledge the special agents at HSI who did an enormous amount of very difficult work in this investigation. I’m delighted that Sarah, who many of you know was the United States Attorney in Dallas before being confirmed to this position, was able to come up today from Washington for this announcement. ************ Before we take questions, I want to say two more things. First, I want to thank Assistant US Attorney Dennis Carletta from my office’s National Security Unit, who is spearheading the prosecution of these important cases; and AUSA Sarah Devlin, from our Asset Forfeiture Unit, who has done a tremendous job working with Dennis on the investigation. Their work, and the work of the agents, is critically important. It goes without saying that international students are a very valuable asset to our country. They enrich our universities, our economy, and our society by sharing their diverse perspectives, skills and experience. But, as these cases show, the program can be exploited and abused. “Pay to Stay” schemes not only damage our perception of legitimate student and foreign worker visa programs, they also pose a threat to national security, And if undiscovered, the consequences can be really risky. Not only do these purported students get to stay in the country because schools are vouching for them, but student visas, under the right circumstances, can start people on the pathway to legal permanent residence and citizenship.
  7. 7. - 7 - I’m proud of the work that HIS and my office did. Today’s arrests, which were made possible by the great undercover work of our law enforcement partners, stopped brokers, recruiters and employers across multiple states who recklessly exploited our immigration system for financial gain. To read the DHS-ICE-HSI press release click on the link below. . https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/21-charged-fraudulently-enabling-hundreds-foreign-nationals-remain-us-through-fake-
  8. 8. Winiteb ~tates iiBistrict <!Court iiBistrict' of ~e'w 3Tersep UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Hon. Steven C. Mannion v. SYED QASIM ABBAS, a/k/a "Qasim Reza," and a/k/a "Nayyer" Magistrate Number: 16-6049 (SCM) Criminal Complaint I, David A. Ferrante, the undersigned complainant being duly sworn, state the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. SEE ATIACHMENT A I further state that I am a Special Agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"), and that this complaint is based on the following facts: SEE ATIACHMENT B continued on the attached page and made a part hereof. ~~~-David A. Ferrante, Special Agent U.S. Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security Investigations Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence, ~M~a~r~c~h~3~0~2~0~1~6~---------------------- at Newark, NewJersey Date City and State Honorable Steven C. Mannion United States Magistrate Judge Name & Title of Judicial Officer 2p;~C~Signature of Judicial Officer
  9. 9. ATTACHMENT A Count One (Hl-B Visa Fraud) From in or about early 2014 through in or about late 2015, in Union County, in the District of New Jersey, and elsewhere, defendant SYED QASIM ABBAS, ajkja "Qasim Reza," and aj k j a "Nayyer'' knowingly falsely made non-immigrant visas, namely H1-B visas, and uttered, used, attempted to use, possessed, obtained, accepted, and received said non-immigrant visas and other documents prescribed by statute and regulation for entry into and as evidence of authorized stay and employment in the United States, knowing such visas and documents had been falsely made and procured by means of false claims and statements and otherwise procured by fraud and unlawfully obtained, as described in Attachment B. In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(a) and Section 2.
  10. 10. Count Two (False Statements) From in or about early 2014 through in or about late 2015, in Union County, in the District of New Jersey, and elsewhere, defendant SYED QASIM ABBAS, a j k/a "Qasim Reza," and ajkj a "Nayyer" in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States, namely, the United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the United States Department of Labor, knowingly and willfully (a) made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations, (b) made and used false writings and documents knowing them to contain materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and entries, and (c) falsified, concealed, and covered up by trick, scheme, and device, certain material facts; namely, Petitions for Non-immigrant Workers, Forms I-129, and Labor Condition Applications submitted to United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the United States Department of Labor that contained materially false and fraudulently representations and used materially false writings and documents knowing them to contain materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and entries, as described in Attachment B. In violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1001 and 2. - 2 -
  11. 11. Count Three (Conspiracy to Harbor Aliens for Profit) From in or about early 20 14 through in or about late 2015, in Union County, in the District of New Jersey, and elsewhere, defendant SYED QASIM ABBAS, ajk /a "Qasim Reza," and a/k/a "Nayyer" knowin gly and intention ally conspired and agreed with others, for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, to encourage and induce aliens to reside in the United States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that . su ch residen ce was and would be a violation of law, as described in Attachment B, con trary to Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). In violation ofTitle 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I). - 3 -
  12. 12. ATTACHMENT B I, David A. Ferrante, am a Special Agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"). I have personally participated in this investigation and am aware of the facts and circumstances contained herein based on my own investigation, as well as my review of documents, records, information and evidence provided to me by other law enforcement officers and relevant personnel. Since this Affidavit is - submitted for the sole purpose of establishing probable cause to support the issuance of a complaint and arrest warrant, I have not necessarily included each and every fact known by the government concerning this investigation. Where statements of others are related herein, they are related in substance and in part. Where I assert that an event took place on a particular date, I am asserting that it took place on or about the day alleged. The Defendant and Other Parties 1. At all times relevant to this Criminal Complaint: a. Defendant SYED QASIM ABBAS, a / k / a "Qasim Reza," and "Nayyer" ("ABBAS"), was resident of New York. ABBAS was the primary owner and operator of Fastnet Software Intemational, Inc., an information technology staffing and consulting company located in East Northport, New York (hereinafter "Fastnet"). b. A federal agent was acting in an undercover capacity (hereinafter "UC-1") and posing as the owner and operator of the University of Northern New Jersey (hereinafter the "School"). The School was physically located in Cranford, New Jersey. The School was part of a federal law enforcement undercover operation designed to identify individuals and entities engaged in immigration fraud. The School was not staffed with instructors f educators, had no curriculum, and no actual classes or edu,cational activities were conducted at the School. Overview 2. Beginning in or about early 2013, federal agents from HSI, using the School, commenced an undercover operation to investigate fraud and the criminal exploitation of United States immigration laws. As a result of this undercover operation, federal agents obtained evidence demonstrating that beginning in or about October 2013, ABBAS engaged in immigrations schemes designed to fraudulently obtain status for non-immigrants, to harbor illegal aliens in the United States, and to maximize his profits. In particular, ABBAS engaged in the following fraudulent immigration schemes: (a) he fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain H1-B Visas (hereinafter the "Hl-B Visa
  13. 13. Program") for non-immigrants by falsely claiming that these aliens would be employed at the School (hereinafter the "Foreign Worker Visa Scheme"); and (b) he fraudulently obtained and attempted to obtain F-1 Non-Immigrant Student Visas (hereinafter the "Student Visa Program") for non-immigrants by falsely claiming that these aliens would be enrolled in and attending the School as students (hereinafter the "Student Visa Scheme"). 3. In furtherance of the Foreign Worker Visa Scheme, ABBAS: (a) created false and fraudulent documents, such as contracts, falsely representing that the foreign workers would be employed at the School in various Information Technology (hereinafter "IT'') positions; (b) paid UC-1 thousands of dollars for false documents from the School, falsely representing that foreign workers would be employed at the School; and (c) signed and submitted to the United States Government immigration petitions and other supporting documents on behalf of foreign workers, falsely representing that these foreign workers would be employed at the School. In fact none of those whom ABBAS represented to be working at the School in fact worked there. In total, ABBAS fraudulently petitioned the United States and attempted to obtain approximately twenty H1-B visas under the Foreign Worker Visa scheme. 4. In furtherance of the Student Visa Scheme, ABBAS (a) recruited non-immigrants possessing temporary visas (such as B1/B2 visitor visas) and converted their status (ll., effected a "Change of Status") to student visas in exchange for money; (b) purchased fraudulent documents, such as fake School acceptance letters and bank statements, from UC- 1 and the School; and (c) submitted, and caused to be submitted, these false and fraudulent documents to the United States Government to obtain the Change of Status for these aliens, even though ABBAS knew, as described below, that none of these "students" actually attended the School as students. Summary of Relevant Immigration Policies and Procedures 5. Based on my education, training, and experience, together with my discussions with other individuals, I am generally familiar with the H1 -B Visa Program and the Student Visa Program. These programs are summarized as follows: 6 . The H1-B Visa Program: a. The United States requires individuals from most foreign countries to obtain a visa before entry into the United States. As they apply to this investigation, non-immigrant visas are required for foreign citizens who intend to enter the United States on a temporary basis, such as for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study. - 2 -
  14. 14. b. An H-lB visa permits an alien to work in the United States subject to certain requirements. The Hl-B Visa Program allows businesses in the United States to employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field such as accounting, engineering, or computer science. c. Before hiring a foreign worker under the Hl-B Visa Program, the employer must first obtain approval from the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") by filing a Labor Condition Application ("LCA"). In the LCA, the employer represents that it intends to employ a specified number of foreign workers for specific positions for a particular period of time. The employer is also required to make truthful representations regarding the foreign worker's rate of pay, work location, and whether the position is full-time. In addition, the employer agrees to pay the foreign worker for non-productive time-that is, an employer who sponsors a foreign worker is required to pay wages and other benefits to the fore~gn worker, even if he or she is not actively working for certain periods of time. The employer must further attest that the representations are true and accurate, and the LCA provides a warning that false representations may lead to criminal prosecution. Except in limited circumstances, the LCA must be filed electronically. Upon filing, the employer is required by regulation to print and sign a copy. The employer is further required to maintain the signed copies in its files. d . After the DOL approves the LCA, which approvals are primarily based on the employer's representations in the LCA, the employer must then obtain permission from the United States Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (''USCIS"), to hire a specific individual. This approval is obtained by filing a Petition for a , Non-immigrant Worker, Form I-129, and paying certain fees. In this petition, the employer is required to truthfully provide biographical information regarding the specific foreign worker to be employed. The employer also provides much of the same information contained on the LCA, includingjob title, the specific type of position for which the worker is hired, work location, pay rate, dates of intended employment, and whether the position is full-time. The petition is signed under penalty of perjury, and the employer must certify that the information submitted is true and correct. - 3 -
  15. 15. e. The United States Government issues H1-B visas based on a random selection process, sometimes referred to as a lottery. Each year, the United States Government sets a quota for the number of H 1-B visas it will issue. As part of the process, the employer/petitioner submits the H1-B petition (Form I-129) to the United States Government, together with supporting documents, such as LCAs, contracts, statements of work, and other employment verification documents, among other documents. If the foreign worker is not selected for the lottery, then the employer/petitioner receives a denial letter and the petition and supporting documents are returned. If, however, the foreign worker is selected by the lottery, then USCIS reviews the petition and supporting documents. f. Once USCIS approves this petition, the foreign worker can apply for a visa at a United States embassy or consulate overseas. If the foreign worker is already lawfully in the United States, then the foreign worker's immigration status can be adjusted without the worker having to leave the country. g. Once a visa is issued or an adjustment of status occurs, the foreign worker possesses lawful non-immigrant status and may reside in the United States and work for the employer until the visa expires or his or her employment with the company ends, whichever occurs first. The foreign worker may not immigrate, or permanently reside, in the United States under this type of visa. After approximately five years, the employer may petition USCIS for change in status for the foreign worker so he/ she may obtain a Legal Permanent Resident status. h . If the foreign worker is dismissed before the H-18 Visa expires, the employer must send notice to USCIS and pay for the foreign worker to return to his or her native country. - 4 -
  16. 16. 7. The Student Visa Program: a. A foreign citizen who wishes to enter and remain in the United States on a temporary basis to pursue a course of study at a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, or other academic institution, or for English language training, must first obtain an F-1 non-immigrant visa, also known as a student visa ("F-1 visa"). b. An F-1 visa is only valid for a temporary period, called the "duration of status," which status lasts as long as the foreign citizen is enrolled as a full-time student in an approved educational program and making normal progress toward completion of the course of study. Under 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(6), a full course of study for a foreign citizen studying a language or other non-vocational training program under an F-1 visa (an "F-1 student") requires eighteen (18) clock hours of attendance per week, assuming the dominant portion of the course consists of classroom instruction. Significantly, when a foreign citizen stops pursuing a full course of study, the duration of status on his or her F-1 visa ends and the temporary period for which the individual was admitted to the United States expires. c. To obtain an F-1 visa, a foreign citizen must first apply to study at a school within the United States that has been certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program ("SEVP'') to enroll and train foreign students. If accepted, the school will provide the foreign citizen with a "Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F- 1) Student Status- For Academic and Language Students," also known as a Form I-20 A ("Form I-20"). The Form I-20 is required for the foreign citizen to obtain an F-1 visa. ·By issuing a Form I-20 to a foreign citizen, an SEVP-approved school certifies that the individual: (1) meets all standards of admission for the school based on a review of the student's application, transcripts, proof of financial responsibility, and other records; and (2) has been accepted for, and would be required to pursue, a full course of study. d. Once a foreign citizen receives a Form I-20, that individual may apply for an F-1 visa. The foreign citizen can then use the F-1 visa and Form I-20 to enter and remain in the United States for the period of time he or she is granted. After a foreign citizen completes his or her course of study, that individual is typically required to depart the United States within 60 days. Conversely, if the foreign student fails to maintain status (~., stops attending school, drops below the full course of study without authorization, or works without authorization, etc.), the foreign student must immediately depart the United States. - 5 -
  17. 17. e. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System ("SEVIS") is an internet based data system that provides users with access to current information on non-immigrant foreign citizens, exchange aliens, and their dependents. Each Form 1-20 that is issued by a school to a foreign citizen will contain a system-generated identification number. This number is referred to as the "SEVIS ID number." Generally, the SEVIS ID number remains the same as long as the foreign citizen maintains his or her valid, original non-immigrant status. This number will typically remain the same regardless of any changes or updates made by the school to the foreign citizen's record. f. Once in the United States, a foreign citizen is generally permitted to transfer from one SEVP-certified school to another, as long as that individual maintains valid F-1 student status and is pursuing a full course of study. To effect such a transfer while maintaining valid status, a foreign citizen must first obtain a school acceptance letter and a SEVIS transfer form from the SEVP-certified school to which the student intends to transfer. The foreign citizen may then transfer to that school, obtain a Form 1-20, and remain in the United States as long as he or she pursues a full course of study at the new SEVP-certified school. g. In addition to taking a full course of study at an accredited institution, an F- 1 student may also seek practical training-which training could include paid employment-that is directly related to the student's major and is considered part of the student's program of study. The two types of practical training available to F-1 students include curricular practical training ("CPT") and optional practical training ("OPT''). If approved by the principal designated school official, an F-1 student may obtain a new Form 1-20 indicating that he or she has been approved for either CPT or OPT. Generally, therefore, as long as an F-1 student has been properly enrolled at an SEVP certified school, has taken classes and earned credits, and has made academic progress toward graduation, that F-1 student may have the opportunity to work full or part-time CPT or OPT, in addition to taking classes. - 6 -
  18. 18. Overview of the Schemes 8. The investigation, including information from open sources, reveals that ABBAS is the primary owner and operator of Fastnet, and this business operates in the IT field. Furthermore, ABBAS, on behalf of Fastnet, petitions USCIS to obtain H-1B visas on behalf of foreign workers. 9. At various times beginning in or about 2010, advertisements appeared on the Internet indicating that Fastnet was seeking to hire workers, especially foreign workers, in the IT field. 10. In or about October 2013, ABBAS was introduced to UC-1 through a third party. Thereafter, ABBAS met with UC-1 in person, spoke with UC-1 over the telephone, and engaged in e-mail communications with UC-1. These conversations were consensually recorded and the e-mail communications were retained as evidence. 11. On or about October 2, 2013, ABBAS, UC-1 , and a third party (hereinafter the "Individual") spoke over the telephone. During this consensually recorded call, ABBAS was introduced to UC-1, and they discussed the School and obtaining student visas for non-immigrar,lts. The following conversation ensued, in substance and in part: Individual: Nayyer [ABBAS] was talking about, and he's really interested in working with us .. . to bring in more students to the school [School]. UC-1: ABBAS: UC-1: Okay. * * * * .... [H]ow can we work together, so we can get some business, and we can both get benefits? * * * * [W]e [the School] give them [non-immigrant students], essentially like an intemship credit, we'll give them full, a full year's worth of credits for the work, and we you know, basically write it off as they've done a paper or something like that, which ... they don't do ... that's how we mark it in our system .... [W]e give them a grade, whether they want an A or a B, whatever .... - 7 -
  19. 19. UC-1: ABBAS: UC-1: ABBAS: * * * * [W]e put them in some classes for basically, for a semester, showing that they've taken fifteen credits, even though they're not coming to class, they don't have to come in, we have them sign the attendance ahead of time, then we graduate them, and then what they can do is, under our program, they could then apply for OPT [to USCIS] . Okay. * * * * [W]e stay away from . . . online classes, we stay away from all that stuff. I'd rather just have a student come in once a month, every couple of months, whatever, sign for the attendance, we give them a grade, they're happy. You know, and like I said, if they wanna actually ... learn something, they can go to a different place, and I'm ... not insulted.... [W]e11 just part ways, it's a business agreement, you know? It's a business dealing. * * * * [W]hat we can do, we can see on e case, and let's see how it goes ... if we come, if we bring in someone from Pakistan, we can take one case and let's see how it goes, and then we can ... if it works smoothly, and then we can start slowly to build the process. During this same consensually recorded call, ABBAS, UC-1, and the Individual discussed obtaining foreign worker visas (Hl-B visas) for non-immigrants. ABBAS suggested that they use the School to create a fictitious project to deceive USCIS into issuing Hl-B visas for ABBAS' foreign workers. The following conversation ensued, in substance and in part: ABBAS: Yeah, so let me ... explain [to] you ... how it works. For Hl-B, you need a client letter, client letters which show that he [non-immigrant] need a project. Okay? . . . Hl -B, they need some kind ofletter. They [USCIS] wanna make sure he, he or he, she has a job before we are getting them on board. So let's suppose you have a school, so we can get the letter, okay. We got the - 8 -
  20. 20. ABBAS: UC-1: ABBAS: project from you, like its ... 'we got this software development project for you,' and on the basis of that software development, we need. . .. So basically, the letter will show, you [the School] are giving us a project, and we [ABBAS's company] are working for you. So that kind of thing. I mean, but not . . . everything will be written by the lawyer, I mean. So, that kind of thing. You know? * * * * [W]e have to show the USCIS, if we are taking some guys for H-1B, we have to show a project. So how we can show a project? We can show them . .. because we got the software development project from your school, and we are developing a software from your school that's for, like student software in .NET and Java, and for them it's a lengthy project. We have to give them [the non-immigrants sought to be sponsored under the H1-B Program] a credibility .... * * * * I don't need . .. any developing of software right now but if you need a, how many of these letters [fictitious employment letters and contracts] are we talking about? You need just one for .. . one or two students? Or are we talking about like ... ten letters, fifty letters? .... [W]e don't want to be started like ten or fifteen, like maybe like three and four, and let's see how it goes. 12. On or about December 10, 2013, ABBAS and UC-1spoke over the telephone. During this consensually recorded call, ABBAS and UC-1 discussed obtaining visas for non-immigrants. The following conversation ensued, in substance and in part: ABBAS: You know, [the] sky is the limit . . .. I will do as many [student visas and foreign worker visas] as we can so it can benefit both of us. ... I've been planning to open an office in Pakistan, so we can get all that B 1, B2 guys [meaning obtain student and/ or foreign worker visas - 9 -
  21. 21. for individuals from Pakistan with tourist visas]. We can give it to you [the business to the School], and plus we can .. . it's like a continuously case [sic] . . . . I'm planning to do continuously with you. Like every month, some business. You know what I mean? After ones that got approved. Later during the same conversation, ABBAS discussed how he was recruiting aliens to enter the United States by boasting about his connections with UC-1 and the School and discussing two pending fraudulent student visa cases with the School: ABBAS: ABBAS: Of course they have to give the money, but we are trying to help them out. So I told them [the aliens seeking status in the United States], I have a lot of connections, I will told them, 'hey, we are helping them out, and these are the two guys we helped them out and they are fine, they are doing fine, and we can help them out too.' [W]e are trying ... we are trying to help them out too. So I can build a lot of good relationship, I mean, good business, which I can bring right away, once these two [student visas cases] go smoothly. * * * * .... [P]ut all the pricing in the email, so everybody have a[] clear pictures [sic], so, everybody have . .. we'll be on the same page. [P]ut on the price, whatever we discussed please, and I will confirm you. Okay? In response to this conversation, on or about December 10, 2013, UC-1 sent an e-mail to ABBAS that stated the following, in substance and in part: [ABBAS] Per out telephone conversation I agree to charge the following: $1000 - Up frant to do the filing. After the filing is approved . . . $2000 - to provide your client one year status and full time CPT- no classes required.- so they can work - 10-
  22. 22. Please confirm with me that this arrangement works for you [which confirmation ABBAS provided in a subsequent e-mail]. 13. As part of the Student Visa Program, the prospective student must establish that he or she can afford to attend school in the United States for the duration of the academic program. Typically, USCIS requires the applicant to submit financial records, such as bank statements, to establish the financial bona fides of the applicant. In furtherance of the scheme to fraudulently obtain status in the United States through the Student Visa Program, ABBAS and UC-1 discussed creating a fictitious bank statement for an alien from Pakistan with the initials H.J. On or about December 20, 2013, UC-1 e-mailed ABBAS various documents needed for H.J.'s change of status from non-immigrant visitor to non-immigrant student, including a fictitious bank statement and a false acceptance letter from the School, which documents were provided by UC-1. The bank statement falsely represented that H.J. had approximately $24,000 in his/her checking account. Thereafter, in or about early 2014, ABBAS submitted, or caused to be submitted to USCIS, H.J.'s change of status application, which application included the false bank statement, fictitious acceptance letter, and other false statements and documents. 14. On or about March 5, 2014, ABBAS sent UC-1 an e-mail containing a word document attachment. The file name for the word document attachment was ''Client Letter.dox." In the body of the e-mail, ABBAS wrote, in substance and in part: "I am attaching the sample client letter for your review, it's not final, but it will be something like this, just need to put your letterhead and sign once I let you know. Thanks Nayyer." This client letter, drafted by ABBAS or someone at his direction, pertained to an individual with the initials A.A.M., an apparent non-immigrant from India seeking an H1-B visa, and stated the following, in substance and in part: This letter serves to confirm that [A.A.M.] will work for us [the School] as a Consultant in the Position of Network Engineer for [the School in New Jersey]. General Purpose: Provide expertise to acquire, manage, manipulate, and analyze data and report results. * * * * Project Duration: We currently consider this assignment to be open ended. This is an ongoing project and expected to continue for the next three years. - 11 -
  23. 23. Employment Relationship: While the consultant (A.A.M.] will work for us [the School] through Fastnet Software International, Inc., this fact shall not render [the School] liable as an employer. Rather, the actual employer company Fastnet Software International, Inc., shall function as (A.A.M.'s] employer and is responsible for all Immigration issues, payroll .... UC-1, in furtherance of the undercover operation, placed the template on the School's letterhead, signed the client letter, and e-mailed them back to ABBAS. The fictitious client letter for A.A.M. was then transmitted to USCIS by ABBAS in support of A.A.M.'s Hl-B visa petition, as described below. The letter, however, was completely fictitious because A.A.M. would not be employed by the School in any capacity. Furthermore, the School never established or had any projects for or with A.A.M. or Fastnet. 15. On or before April! , 2014, ABBAS submitted a Form 1-129 to USCIS on behalf of Fastnet for A.A.M., the non-immigrant from India described above. ABBAS signed the Form 1-129 under penalty of perjury, representing that A.A.M. would be employed by Fastnet as a "Network Engineer" for approximately three years as a full-time employee at the School. The petition stated that A.A.M. was located in Saudi Arabia at the time it was submitted to USCIS. In addition and in support of the petition for A.A.M., ABBAS also signed an LCA, dated on or about March 25, 2014. On this form, ABBAS was advised that making a false representing on the form could result in criminal and civil penalties. On the LCA for A.A.M., ABBAS falsely represented that A.A.M. would be working at the School and earning approximately $70,000 per year. Furthermore, in support of this petition, ABBAS included a copy of the fraudulent client letter, referred to above, bearing the School's letterhead and UC-1 's signature, together with other false documents from the School, including a bogus <<statement of Work"-i.e., a contract between Fastnet, signed by ABBAS, and the School, and a "Consulting Service Agreement." This Hl-B visa was never issued to A.A.M. by the United States Government. 16. On or before April2, 2014, ABBAS submitted a Form I-129 to USCIS on behalf of Fastnet for an individual with the initials D.M., the non-immigrant from India seeking an H1-B visa. ABBAS signed the Form I-129 under penalty of perjury, representing that D.M. would be employed by Fastnet as a "Network Engineer" for approximately three years as a full-time employee at the School. In addition and in support of the petition for D.M., ABBAS also signed an LCA, dated on or about March 27, 2014. On this form, ABBAS was advised that making a false representing on the form could result in criminal and civil penalties. On the LCA for D.M., ABBAS falsely represented that D.M. would be - 12 -
  24. 24. School's letterhead and signed by UC-1) and a false receipt back to ABBAS. In the e-mail, UC-1 stated the following, in substance and in part: "[A]ttached are the fake docs for [P.P.] so she can go for the visa interview." Later that day and in response to UC-l's e-mail, ABBAS wrote, "Thanks, Please also send me the acceptance letters for the university transfer student's [sic]. It's already late but we can still try to get them transfer." 18. In total, ABBAS fraudulently petitioned the United States and attempted to obtain approximately twenty H1-B visas, and ABBAS paid UC-1 approximately $6,000 to fraudulently place foreign workers at the School and for the fraudulent documents needed for the visas. The United States Government did not issue any of these H1-B visas submitted by ABBAS. 19. In addition to engaging in H1 -B visa fraud, as described above, ABBAS also committed, and attempted to commit student visa fraud. During the investigation, ABBAS paid UC-1 approximately $17,750 in exchange for approximately 6 Forms I-20, falsely claiming that these aliens would be attending classes at the School. - 14-
  25. 25. Wnitel.l ~tates tBistrict Q!:ourt tBistrict of ~e'w jJersep UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ZHENG ZHANG, a/k/a "Vicky Zhang" and XUE YONG LIU, a/k/a "Jack Liu" Hon. Steven C. Mannion Magistrate No.: 16-6039 (SCM) Criminal Complaint I, Davia' A. Ferrante, the undersigned complainant being duly sworn, state the following is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. SEE ATIACHMENT A I further state that I am a Special Agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"), and that this complaint is based on the following facts: SEE ATIACHMENT B continued on the attached page and made a part hereof. David A. Ferrante, Special Agent U.S. Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security Investigations Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence, March 30, 2016 at Date Honorable Steven C. Mannion United States Magistrate Judge Name & Title of Judicial Officer Newark, New Jersey City and State ~C. fl.:,Signature of Judicial Officer
  26. 26. ATTACHMENT A COUNT ONE (Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud) From in or about June 2014 through in or about March 2016, in Union County, in the District of New Jersey, and elsewhere, defendants ZHENG ZHANG, a/k/a "Vicky Zhang" and XUE YONG LIU, a/k/a "Jack Liu" did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with each other and with others to commit an offense against the United States, that is, to utter, use, attempt to use, possess, obtain, accept, and receive non-immigrant visas, namely student visas and other documents proscribed by statute and regulation for entry into and as evidence of authorized stay in the United States, knowing that the student visas had been procured by means of false claims and statements and otherwise procured by fraud and unlawfully obtained, contrary to Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546(a). In furtherance of the conspiracy and to effect its unlawful objects, the defendants committed and caused to be committed the following overt acts, among others, in the District of New Jersey and elsewhere, as set forth in Attachment B below. In violation ofTitle 18, United States Code, Section 371.
  27. 27. COUNT TWO (Conspiracy to Harbor Aliens for Profit) From in or about June 2014 through in or about March 2016, in Union County, in the District of New Jersey, and elsewhere, defendants ZHENG ZHANG, a/k/a "Vicky Zhang" and XUE YONG LIU, a/k/a "Jack Liu" did knowingly and intentionally conspire and agree with each other and with others, for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain, to encourage and induce an alien to reside in the Un!ted States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that such residence was and would be a violation oflaw, contrary to Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). In violation of Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324(a)(1)(A)(v)(I). - 2 -
  28. 28. ATTACHMENT B I, David A. Ferrante, am a Special Agent with the United States Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations ("HSI"). I have personally participated in this investigation and am aware of the facts and circumstances contained herein based on my own investigation, as well as my review of documents, records, information and evidence provided to me by other law enforcement officers and relevant personnel. Since this Affidavit is submitted for the sole purpose of establishing probable cause to support the issuance of a complaint and arrest warrant, I have not necessarily included each and every fact known by the government concerning this investigation. Where statements of others are related herein, they are related in substance and in part. Where I assert that an event took place on a particular date, I am asserting that it took place on or about the day alleged. The Defendants and Other Parties 1. At all times relevant to this Criminal Complaint: a. Defendant Zheng Zhang a/k/a "Vicky Zhang," ("ZHANG"), was a citizen of China who resided in or around New York, New York. ZHANG worked as an education consultant for ILlS, Inc. ("ILlS"), a company that purported to provide foreign nationals in the United States with assistance in identifying methods of remaining and working in the United States and extending student visa status in the United States. b. Defendant Xue Yong Liu a/k/a "Jack Liu," ("LIU"), was a citizen of China who resided in or around New York, New York. LIU worked as the purported "Director of the Chinese Department" at ILlS. c. A federal agent was acting in an undercover capacity (hereinafter "UC-1"). d. Federal agents were acting in an undercover capacity and posing as the owners and/ or operators of the University of Northern New Jersey (hereinafter the "School"). The School was physically located in Cranford, New Jersey. The School was part of a federal law enforcement undercover operation designed to identify individuals and entities engaged in immigration fraud. The School was not staffed with instructors I educators, had no curriculum, and no actual classes or educational activities were conducted at the School.
  29. 29. e. A co-conspirator not named as a defendant herein was a foreign citizen who fraudulently maintained student visa status through ZHANG and LIU (hereinafter "CC-1"). Overview of Investigation 2. Beginning in or about September 2013, federal agents from HSI, using the School, commenced an undercover operation to investigate criminal activities associated with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program ("SEVP"), including, but not limited to, student visa fraud and the harboring of aliens for profit. A brief summary of the SEVP is described in Paragraph 4, below. 3. During the course of the investigation, HSI agents identified numerous individuals and organizations that used the SEVP as an instrument to engage in criminal conduct. Specifically, as described more fully below, the investigation revealed that defendants ZHANG and LIU enabled numerous foreign individuals to fraudulently maintain non-immigrant status and obtain employment authorization to remain in the United States on the false pretense that these aliens were participating in full courses of study at an academic institution.' In truth and in fact, ZHANG and LIU, with full knowledge that the aliens would not attend any actual courses, earn actual credits, or make academic progress toward an actual degree in a particular field of study, fraudulently maintained student visa status in exchange for kickbacks, or "commissions" from individuals they believed were co-schemers. Additionally, ZHANG and LIU facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for some of the foreign students for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities. Summary of Relevant Immigration Policies and Procedures 4. From my training and experience as a Special Agent with HSI, and from speaking with individuals and officials with knowledge of the SEVP with the Department of Homeland Security, I have learned about the requirements that foreign citizens must comply with under United States immigration law, including the following: a . The United States requires individuals from most foreign countries to obtain a visa prior to entry into the United States. As they apply to this investigation, non-immigrant visas are required for foreign citizens who 1. Your Affiant is aware that this type of SEVP-related fraud is commonly referred to as a "pay to stay" scheme. - 2 -
  30. 30. intend to enter the United States on a temporary basis, such as for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work, or study.2 b . A foreign citizen who wishes to enter and remain in the United States on a temporary basis to pursue a course of study at a college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, or other academic institution, or for English language training (commonly referred to as "ESL"),3 must first obtain an F-1 non-immigrant visa, also known as a student visa ("F- 1 visa"). c. An F-1 visa is only valid for a temporary period, called the "duration of status," which status lasts as long as the foreign citizen is enrolled as a full-time student in an approved educational program and making normal progress toward completion of the course of study.4 Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 2 14.2(f)(6), a full course of study for a foreign citizen studying a language or other non-vocational training program under an F-1 visa (an "F-1 student") requires eighteen (18) clock hours of attendance per week, assuming the dominant portion of the course consists of classroom instruction. Significantly, when a foreign citizen stops pursuing a full course of study, the duration of status on his or her F-1 visa ends and the temporary period for which the individual was admitted to the United States expires. · 2. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1101 (a)(15)(F)(i), an F- 1 student (i.e., a non-immigrant alien admitted to the United States on a temporary basis to pursue a course of study) is defmed as follows: "an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning, who is a bona fide student qualified to pursu e a full course of study and who seeks to enter the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing such a course of study consistent with section 1184(1) of this title at an established college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in an accredited language training program in the United States, particularly designated by him and approved by the Attomey General after consultation with the Secretary of Education...." 3 . One area of study available to F-1 students includes English language training, or ESL, courses. In order to pursue ESL studies, an F-1 student must enroll in an SEVP-certified English language training program. ESL students are not eligible for online or distance education, as all training must take place in a classroom (or computer lab) setting for a minimum of eighteen (18) hour per week. A foreign citizen who is granted an F-1 visa to participate in an ESL program may not obtain work authorization. 4. Certain F-1 students (identified as "Border Crossing'' students from Mexico or Canada who attend a school within 75 miles of a land border) may be admitted to the United States until a date certain , rather than for duration of status. See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(l8). Non e of the foreign individuals associated with this investigation were the recipient of a "Border Crossing" F-1 visa. - 3 -
  31. 31. d. To obtain an F-1 visa, a foreign citizen must first apply to study at a school within the United States that has been certified by the SEVP to enroll and train foreign students. If accepted, the school will provide the foreign citizen with a "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status- For Academic and Language Students," also known as a Form I-20 A ("Form I-20"). The Form I-20 is required for the foreign citizen to obtain an F-1 visa. By issuing a Form I-20 to a foreign citizen, an SEVP-approved school certifies that the individual: (1) meets all standards of admission for the school based on a review of the student's application, transcripts, proof of financial responsibility, and other records; and (2) has been accepted for, and would be required to pursue, a full course of study. e. Once a foreign citizen receives a Form I-20, that individual may apply for an F-1 visa. The foreign citizen can then use the F-1 visa and Form I-20 to enter and remain in the United States for the period of time he or she is granted. After a foreign citizen completes his or her course of study, that individual is typically required to depart the United States within 60 days. Conversely, if the foreign student fails to maintain status (e.g. , stops attending school, drops below the full course of study without authorization , etc.), the foreign student must immediately depart the United States. f. The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System ("SEVIS") is an internet based data system that provides users with access to current information on nonimmigrant foreign citizens, exchange aliens, and their dependents. Each Form I-20 that is issued by a school to a foreign citizen will contain a _system-generated identification number. This number is referred to as the "SEVIS ID number." Generally, the SEVIS ID number remains the same as long as the foreign citizen maintains his or her valid, original nonimmigrant status. This number will typically remain the same regardless of any changes or updates made by the school to the foreign citizen's record. g. Once in the United States, a foreign citizen is generally permitted to transfer from one SEVP-certified school to another, as long as that individual maintains valid F-1 student status and is pursuing a full course of study. To effect such a transfer while maintaining valid status, a foreign citizen must first obtain a school acceptance letter and a SEVIS transfer form from the SEVP-certified school to which the student intends to transfer. The foreign citizen may then transfer to that school, obtain a Form I-20, and remain in the United States as long as he or she pursues a full course of study at the new SEVP-certified school.5 5. Every SEVP-approved school must h ave one Primary Designated School Official ("PDSO") who, among other things, certifies under penalty of perjury on the - 4 -
  32. 32. h. In addition to taking a full course of study at an accredited institution, a non-ESL, F-1 student may also seek practical training- which could include paid employment - that is directly related to the student's major and is considered part of the student's program of study. The two types of practical training available to non-ESL, F-1 students include curricular practical training ("CPT") and optional practical training ("OPT''). If approved by the PDSO (or DSO), an F-1 student may obtain a new Form I-20 indicating that he or she has been approved for either CPT or OPT. Generally, therefore, as long as an F-1 student has been properly enrolled at an SEVP certified school, has taken classes and earnec;:i credits, and has made academic progress toward Form 1-20 that the foreign student's application, transcripts, or other records of courses taken, and proof of financial responsibility - including proof that the student has the funds necessary to live and study in the United States without working illegally or suffering from poverty - were received by the school and the student met the qualifications for admission. The PDSO also certifies that the foreign student will be required to pursue a full course of study as defined by the regulations in 8 C.F.R. § 214.2{f){6). The forgoing certification responsibilities of the PDSO may also be handled by a Designated School Official ("DSO"). SEVP certified schools also are required to maintain up to date and accurate records in SEVIS regarding the foreign students attending the school and are required to input accurately when students have completed their studies so that their immigration status can be terminated. The PDSO {or DSO) is also required to maintain up to date and accurate records in the SEVIS database for status events of foreign students attending their school including, but not limited to: entryI exit data, changes of current United States address {residence), program extensions, employment notifications, changes in program of study, and completion of studies so the student's immigration status can be timely terminated. Additionally, if a foreign citizen admitted on an F-1 visa to attend an SEVP- certified school has not pursued a full course of study at the school, a PDSO {or DSO) is prohibited from transferring that foreign citizen to another school. Pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 214.2{8){i), an F-1 student who was not pursuing a full course of study at the school he or she was last authorized to attend is ineligible for school transfer and must apply for reinstatement, or, in the alternative, may depart the U.S. and return as an initial entry in a new F-1 nonimmigrant status. Once an SEVP-certified school terminates an F-1 student's active status in SEVIS for "Unauthorized Drop Below Full Course of Study," thereby flagging the F-1 student's termination for review by the Department of Homeland Security, SEVP guidance allows the school to then transfer the F-1 student's SEVIS records in terminated status to another school. The terminated F-1 student must then file an application for reinstatement of active status with the support of the school the student is transferring to, or depart the United States. Further, an F-1 student who has not been pursuing a full course of study at an SEVP-certified school cannot be transferred to another school unless and until his or her active status has been terminated in SEVIS. - 5 -
  33. 33. graduation, that F-1 student may have the opportunity to work full or part- time CPT or QPT, in addition to taking classes.6 The Defendants' Criminal Activities 5. Beginning in or about June 2014, ZHANG contacted School officials to solicit potential recruiting opportunities. Specifically, by e-mail dated on or about June 3, 2014, ZHANG contacted the School and stated that ILlS was "interested on working with [the School] to advise prospective students regarding your application procedures and assist student recruitment of your school." The email further stated that ILlS hoped "to establish a cooperative relationship with your distinguished school. ..." Later that day, ZHANG engaged in a consensually recorded telephone conversation with UC-1 . During that call, ZHANG claimed to want to help UC-1 recruit Chinese students to the School. UC-1 advised ZHANG that the School could not offer ZHANG's clients enrollment, as the School's classes were full. Despite UC-1 's representation, ZHANG and UC-1 discussed a scenario whereby ZHANG's recruits could enroll in the School for the purpose of maintaining their immigration status and obtaining work authorization in the United States, despite the evident lack of any available classes or curriculum. 6. Over the course of the next several weeks, and in response to ZHANG's initial inquiries, UC-1 engaged in several consensually recorded telephone conversations and in~person meetings with ZHANG and LIU (collectively, the "Defendants") to negotiate the terms of the Defendants' proffered recruiting services. 7. For example, on or about June 4, 2014, ZHANG contacted UC-1 and engaged in a consensually recorded telephone conversation. During this 6. Practical training may be authorized to'an F-1 student who has been lawfully enrolled on a full time basis, in a SEVP-certified institution, for one full academic year. CPT is more specifically defmed as an alternative work/study, internship, cooperative education, or any other type of required internship or practicum that is offered by sponsoring employers through cooperative agreements with a given SEVP-certified institution. An F-1 student may be authorized by the PDSO (or DSO) to participate in a CPT program that is an integral part of an established curriculum. A student may begin CPT only after receiving his or her Form 1-20 with the PDSO (or DSO) endorsement. A student may be authorized 12 months of practical training, and becomes eligible for another 12 months of practical training when he or she changes to a higher educational level. Exceptions to the one academic year requirement prior to obtaining CPT approval are provided for students enrolled in graduate studies that require immediate participation in curricular practical training. See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2 (10). - 6 -
  34. 34. call, UC-1 reiterated the terms of the proposed illicit agreement between ILlS and the School. Specifically, UC-1 and ZHANG discussed the issuance of CPT work authorization to purported foreign students beginning on their first day of enrollment at the School; UC-1 further stated that ILlS' recruits would not have to attend classes, and that their enrollment in the School would be solely to maintain their immigration status. Additionally, UC-1 and ILlS discussed a proposed "tuition" rate that would be charged for each alien's enrollment. ZHANG acknowledged her understanding of the proposal and explained that ILlS had one client who was in need of immediate assistance to maintain his/her immigration status in the United States. With regard to that client, ZHANG stated, ''if [the alien] just wants the, the status, it should be fine but if [the student] want some real class, real courses, yeah I think that's another, another thing it's not the same thing." ZHANG indicated that she would explain the nature of enrollment at the School to her client in detail, stating, "I will talk to him very clear about this." 8. Thereafter, on or about June 11, 2014, ZHANG and LIU met with UC-1 at the School and engaged in a consensually recorded meeting. The matters discussed at this meeting included, among others, the manner and means of payment of purported foreign student "tuition" at the School, as well as the issuance of CPT work authorization. Additionally, ZHANG and LIU queried whether the School would be ''safe" [i.e., not subject to scrutiny by law enforcement or immigration officials] for the purported foreign students, as they would not actually be attending classes. Further, LIU offered UC-1 a recruiting opportunity with ILlS, stating, "if you have students you can refer to us and we can have them apply for these schools, uh, schools, and we also will issue commission to you... ." Later that day, UC-1 sent an e-mail to ZHANG and LIU to memorialize the terms of the arrangement they had discussed at the meeting. The e-mail contained the cost of tuition for the purported foreign students and specified that ZHANG and LIU would receive a twenty five percent commission of the tuition payments made on behalf of ILlS recruits to the School, with added commission rates based on the total number of purported foreign students ultimately recruited by ZHANG and LIU. 9. Based on those discussions, and beginning in or about June 2014, ZHANG and LIU facilitated the enrollment of dozens of foreign students at the School despite knowing that the individuals they recruited were not bona fide students, and had no intention of attending classes or earning credits at the School.7 In exchange for receiving a Form I-20 from the School and being reported in SEVIS as a legitimate foreign student, ZHANG and LIU's recruits 7. From in or about June 2014 through March 2016, ZHANG and LIU recruited and referred approximately 36 foreign individuals to the School, and they collected thousands of dollars in commission fees as a result of their illicit activities. - 7 -
  35. 35. would make "tuition" payments to the School that corresponded to the length of time that the purported foreign students were enrolled. For each foreign student referred by ZHANG and LIU and subsequently enrolled at the School, ZHANG and LIU received a percentage of the purported foreign student's tuition payments as commission for ZHANG and LIU's illicit recruiting services. Once ZHANG and LIU referred an alien to the School, ZHANG and LIU followed up with School personnel via e-mail to track the status of the issuance of relevant immigration documents, including Forms I-20 and CPT documentation, for their recruits. Significantly, the Forms I-20 that ZHANG and LIU caused the School to issue to ZHANG's and LID's recruits were falsely made and procured by fraud. ZHANG and LIU knew the Forms I-20 were fraudulent because their recruits would not be attending any classes at the School and would not be making any academic progress toward a legitimate degree in an established curriculum; indeed, the Forms I-20 were procured by ZHANG and LIU to fraudulently maintain their foreign recruits' immigration and work status in the United States. Further, numerous individuals referred by ZHANG and LIU enrolled at the School in an effort to falsely obtain and extend CPT eligibility, so that those individuals could continue to reside and work in the United States in contravention of U.S. immigration laws. 10. During the course of the conspiracy, ZHANG and LIU obtained numerous false and fraudulent documents from the School on behalf of their recruits. These documents included false transcripts and student identification cards. In certain instances, ZHANG and LIU obtained and created false documents for the School to falsely create the appearance that their.recruits were legitimate students. For example, by e-mail dated on or about April 21, 2015, ZHANG sent UC-1 falsified and completed attendance records for nine aliens she had previously recruited to the School. The false records purported to show that the aliens attended classes at the School; ZHANG, however, knew that none of the recruits had actually attended a single class at the School. 11. The fraudulent nature of the Defendants' dealings with the School was further underscored by the types of payments made by the Defendants to purchase various immigration related documents, such as Forms I-20 and CPT work authorization, for ILlS clients. In one instance, the Defendants had an outstanding balance at the School for their recruits' purported tuition payments. By e-mail dated on or about July 28, 2015, UC-1 advised the Defendants that, in an effort to reduce potential exposure that could be created by multiple banking transactions, that UC-1 would accept a watch as pay·ment for the tuition, in lieu of cash or checks. Subsequently, by e-mail dated on or about July 28, 2015, UC-1 provided ZHANG and LIU with an internet link for the requested watch. By e-mail dated July 29, 2015, ZHANG replied to UC-1, stating that the requested watch would cost $7, 117 after taxes, and that in - 8 -
  36. 36. exchange for providing the watch to UC-1, the School could redeem the watch's cost for seven of her clients' tuition fees for the next school term. By e-mail . dated on or about July 29, 2015, ZHANG sent UC-1 a copy of the shipping and tracking information for the package containing the requested watch. UC-1 subsequently received the watch on or about August 3, 2015, and it was retained as evidence as part of this investigation. 12. As stated, the Defendants used the School to request and obtain numerous false and fraudulent documents for their clients that were intended to deceive U.S. immigration officials and to unlawfully obtain visa documents. For example, by e-mail dated on or about June 1, 2015, ZHANG contacted UC- 1 to discuss documents she wanted to obtain for one of the Defendants' School recruits ("CC-1"). ZHANG informed UC-1 that an H1-B visas application had been filed on CC-1's behalf, and that U.S. immigration officials had requested additional information for CC-1 's file (this request is commonly referred to as a "request for evidence," or "RFE").9 ZHANG's email to UC-1 also revealed that CC-1 had requested, through ZHANG, a parking permit, signed attendance records, and professor contact information from the School, and that CC-1 would prepare a false syllabus for the School courses in which CC-1 was purportedly enrolled. These false documents were requested by ZHANG and 8. An H-lB visa permits an alien to work in the United States subject to certain requirements. Generally, the program allows businesses in the United States to employ foreign workers with specialized or technical expertise in a particular field such as accounting, engineering, or computer science. Before hiring a foreign worker under the Program, the employer must first obtain approval from the United States Department of Labor ("DOL") and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") to hire a specific individual. This approval is obtained, in part, by filing a "Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I- 129," (commonly referred to as an Hl-B visa), and paying certain fees. In this petition, the employer is required to truthfully provide biographical information regarding the specific foreign worker to be employed, including job title, the specific type of position for which the worker is hired, work location, pay rate, dates of intended employment, and whether the position is full-time. The petition is signed under penalty of perjury, and the employer must certify that the information submitted is true and correct. Ultimately, if USCIS approves this petition (and assuming the foreign worker is already lawfully in the U.S.), then the foreign worker's immigration status can be adjusted without the worker having to leave the country. 9. The USCIS periodically issues a request fe>r evidence ("RFE") in connection with its review of various immigration petitions. As it applies to the instant investigation, documents typically provided by a petitioner in response to a RFE include, among others, proof of enrollment and payment of tuition, student identification cards, student transcripts and attendance records, proof of CPT work authorization and cooperative employer-student agreements, diplomas, and other education-related materials. - 9 -
  37. 37. ee-1 to trick users into believing that ee-1 was lawfully enrolled in the School and had lawful status in an effort to induce users to convert ee-1's F- 1 status into an H1-B status (which H1-B status can later be changed into lawful permanent resident status). By e-mail dated on or about June 1, 2015 and in response to ZHANG's request, ue-1 sent ZHANG final, signed copies of ee-1 's fake parking permit, an RFE letter from the School, a tuition payment receipt, and a fake School transcript. Thereafter, by e-mail dated on or about June 9, 2015, ue-1 sent ZHANG signed copies of ee-1's false attendance records. Subsequently, by e-mail dated on or about June 22, 2015, ZHANG thanked ue-1 for providing the RFE responses for ee-1. Ultimately, after paying for and receiving the final signed false documents from ue-1, ZHANG and ee-1 facilitated userS's receipt of the fraudulent RFE documents. Law enforcement agents' review of official records maintained by users has confirmed that the false School documents obtained by ZHANG and ee-1 were, in fact, submitted to U.S. immigration authorities in support of ee-1 's H1-B application. - 10 -

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