Fed Set Up Fake University, Arrest 21 in Bogus Visa Case

NEWARK (AP) -

The University of Northern New Jersey fielded no sports teams, held no graduation ceremonies and had no instructors, classes or degree programs. It did have a very attractive website that promised an “exceptional” education for foreign students wishing to study in the U.S.

The school was a sham from beginning to end — and it was created by federal authorities, who used it to arrest 21 people on charges they conspired to help more than 1,000 foreigners fraudulently keep or obtain student or work visas over the past 2-1/2 years.

The defendants whose arrests were announced Tuesday knew the school was bogus, as did the foreigners, who pretended to be students there in order to stay in the U.S. But they didn’t know it was set up as a sting by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Most of the foreigners who benefited from the scam were from China and India and were already in the U.S. on student visas. They could face deportation but won’t be prosecuted.

The 21 people arrested were described as brokers, recruiters and employers. Most of them are in the U.S. legally and live in New York, New Jersey and California.

The University of Northern New Jersey’s elaborate website promised “a high quality American education to students from around the world.” The site contained links to academic programs; a message from the “president,” a “Dr. Steven Brunetti, Ph.D.”; and photos of young people sitting around a library table or consulting with a faculty member.

The site was taken offline Tuesday.

“This was just another stop on the ‘pay-to-stay’ tour,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.