A court in the United States has sentenced Phanideep Karnati, a Telugu techie, to six months in jail for recruiting students, in connection with the University of Farmington immigration fraud case.
36-year-old Phanideep was one of eight individuals from around the US who were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and 'harboring aliens for profit,' following an investigation by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcementâ€™s (ICE) under the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
United States Attorney Matthew Schneider announced the sentencing, with HSI Detroit Special Agent in Charge Vance Callender.
â€śTodayâ€™s sentencing of the final criminal defendant in HSIâ€™s University of Farmington investigation makes it unequivocally clear that every individual who participated in this scheme knew it was an illegal pay-to-stay scam,â€ť Vance Callender said.
â€śHSI is dedicated to protecting the homeland in part by ensuring the integrity of the Student Visa Program so it can continue to benefit everyone. Unscrupulous schools whose sole motive is profit and not education do exist and this investigation not only exposed these types of criminals, but has helped create a feeling of omnipresence by law enforcement that will make others think twice before exploiting the program,â€ť he added.
Phanideep pursued his education in Hyderabad before he migrated to the US. After completing his jail term, he will be deported back to India, authorities said.
Besides Phanideep, those who have already been sentenced so far are 30-year-old Barath Kakireddy (18 months), 32-year-old Suresh Kandala (18 months), 27-year-old Prem Rampeesa (12 months), 29-year-old Santosh Sama (24 months), 29-year-old Avinash Thakkallapally (15 months), 27-year-old Aswanth Nune (12 months) and 27-year-old Naveen Prathipati (12 months).
"According to court records, from approximately February 2017 through January 2019, the defendants, a group of foreign citizens, 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 special agents as part of an undercover operation," ICE said in a press release.
"As part of the scheme, the defendants who worked as recruiters, assisted foreign students in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities," the release added.
Authorities said that the illegal documents obtained were based on false statements, as the foreign students had no intention of attending a single class, and knew that the school had no instructors or actual classes.
"As this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can be exploited and abused," United States Attorney Matthew Schneider said, adding, "These foreign 'students' werenâ€™t students at all â€“ they were scam artists trying to stay in our country illegally, and they all fully knew there were no classes to attend."