Officials from schools in Alhambra, Los Angeles accused of ‘pay-to-stay’ immigration fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES >> Federal officials on Wednesday arrested the owner and two manager of a chain of four schools, including one in Alhambra, on charges of running a “pay-to-stay” scheme officials allege helped hundreds of foreign nationals remain in the U.S. as foreign students without attending classes.
A federal grand jury returned a 21-count indictment against the three defendants Tuesday, U.S. Department of Justice spokesoman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The involved schools are the Likie Fashion and Technology College in Alhambra, Prodee University/Neo American Language School in Los Angeles; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, and Educational Center in Los Angeles; and the American College of Forensic Studies in Los Angeles.
“Given the implications for national security and public safety, we will move aggressively to target individuals who compromise the integrity of our nation’s immigration system out of greed and self-interest,” HSI in in Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Claude Arnold said. “Simply put, those who exploit the benefits of the student visa program can expect to get a lesson in criminal justice.”
The schools were authorized by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations to sue Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status for academic and languages students, Mrozek said. The school-issued forms, known as form I-20, made students eligible to obtain F-1 student visas allowing them to remain in the United States.
The schools’ enrollees paid up to $1,800 “tuition” for six months of enrollment, Mrozek said. The schools collected as much as $6 million per year in purported tuition payments.
But HSI officials who made an unannounced visit to Prodee University’s main campus in 2011 investigators to Prodee University’s main campus found only three students attending a single English class, although records indicated more than 900 students were enrolled at the university’s two campuses, Mrozek said. Another inspection the same day as the American College of Forensic Studies turned up a single student sitting in one religion class, officials said. Federal records reflected that the school should have had more than 300 active students.
His investigators also found dozens of purported foreign students, primarily from South Korea and China, who originally entered the U.S. to attend other schools, but transferred to the Prodee Network, Mrozek said. “These students lived across the nation, indicating that they were not actually attending classes at Prodee or the other schools,” he said.
School network owner Hee Sun Shim, 51, of Beverly Hills, who is also known as Leonard Shim and Leo Shim, is charged in the indictment along with alleged co-conspirators Hyung Cham Moon, 39, of Los Angeles, also known as Steve Moon, and Eun Young Choi, 35, of Los Angeles, also known as Jamie Choi, according to the DOJ.
All three are charged with conspiring to commit immigration fraud, Mrozek said. Shim is also charged with 13 counts of use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud, three counts of encouraging illegal residence and two counts of money laundering.
Moon and Choi are each accused of one count of use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud.
HSI officials planned to immediately seek withdrawal of the schools’ Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification, Mrozek added.
Any students enrolled at the involved schools were advised to contact SEVP representatives at 703-603-3400 for further instructions, officials said. Information is also available online at the SEVP page of ICE’s website at www.ice.gov/sevis/whats-new.

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Feds sue Arizona to block enforcement of SB 1070

From the Associated Press:

PHOENIX — The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s tough new law targeting illegal immigrants.
The government filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix on Tuesday.

The lawsuit argues that Arizona’s new measure requiring state and local police to question and possibly arrest illegal immigrants during the enforcement of other laws usurps federal authority.

Tuesday’s action has been expected for weeks. President Barack Obama has called the state law misguided. Supporters say it is a reasonable reaction to federal inaction on immigration.

UPDATE:

Rep. Judy Chu issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
“I applaud the Justice Department’s decision to challenge Arizona’s immigration law,” said Chu. “This misguided policy is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American in the way it separates families and hurts real people. Arizona’s law is an excessive – and obvious – reaction to the reality that, for far too long, the federal government has neglected its responsibility and authority over immigration policy. That’s why Congress must prevent the emergence of other patchwork fixes to our broken system and pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.”

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Antonovich: Proposed boycott of Arizona “stupid”

This from a press release put out by Antonovich’s press deputy Tony Bell Wednesday:

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich called the proposal to divest and boycott Arizona over the state’s passage of SB 1070, making illegal federal immigration law a violation of state law stupid.

“As elected officials, we take an oath to uphold the federal and state constitutions. To boycott a state for enforcing our federal laws is in direct violation of that oath. The propaganda by both the media and others is intentionally misleading because Arizona’s law mirrors federal law. Rather than debating a boycott, this Board should hold our federal representatives accountable for their failure to act on immigration reform but also for their failure to reimburse costs incurred by local governments.

This knee jerk reaction to support law breakers at the expense of law-abiding legal immigrants and other residents is irresponsible.

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More gang members on ICE

A story that will appear in tomorrow’s Daily Bulletin notes that United States immigration officials arrested nearly 2000 gang members in 2008. Here’s the meat:

Authorities with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced on Friday that they arrested nearly 2,000 gang members and associates last year in a national anti-gang operation.

ICE officials said more than 850 of them have been prosecuted on state and federal charges, including re-entry after deportation and weapons violations. The remainder, who are considered foreign national gang members, have been placed in deportation proceedings, ICE officials said.

The arrests occurred in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

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From Diamond Bar to Flint and back to the Philippines

A Flint, Michigan doctor and his wife who skipped a 1997 immigration hearing after getting bad advice from a Southern California attorney, were deported back to the Philippines on Halloween, according to an article on Mlive.com.

The doctor’s mother is a Diamond Bar resident, according to the story:

For 15 years, the Jotas embodied the hopes of immigrants looking to the United States for a better life.

He had a thriving medical practice in Flint, a $350,000 house in the suburbs and four beautiful children born into U.S. citizenship.

But the life disappeared on Halloween.

On a night when the family should have been trick-or-treating, Jose and Celina Jota were deported to the Philippines for skipping a court hearing a decade ago.

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