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March 2017

Guilty plea by Los Angeles school operator

Los Angeles pic courtesy Rod Ramsey


A vocational schools operator in Los Angeles has pleaded guilty to charges of visa fraud as part of a plea bargain after a Homeland Security investigation dating back to 2011. The probe uncovered a multimillion dollar ‘pay-to-stay’ student visa scam in which international students came to the US on study visas but ‘never studied’.

As part of the plea bargain, Hun Sun Shim (also known as Leo Shim) and co-defendants Eun Young Choi and Hyung Chan Moon will forfeit their proceeds of the fraud – believed to be in the region of $6 million. Some $465,000 was seized by investigators in 2015.

A court date for a sentencing hearing is set for July, and Shim faces up to fifteen years in prison. Shim and his associates operated four vocation schools in the Greater Los Angeles area – Prodee University/Neo-America Language School, the American College of Forensic Studies, Walter Jay M.D. Institute and Likie Fashion and Technology College. According to the MyNewsLA website, officers from Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) made an unannounced spot check at Prodee’s main campus in 2011. Despite records showing over 900 students enrolled, Homeland Security discovered only one English language class in progress, with three students. A similar phenomenon was witnessed during a spot check at the American College of Forensic Studies, which had more than 300 active students enrolled but just one student attending a religious studies class.

Homeland Security investigators found ‘several dozen’ students had entered the US, mostly from China and Korea, on visitor visas, allowing them to study on short, not credit-based, courses, then transferred to M-1 (vocational courses) or F-1 (academic student or language programme student) courses at Prodee, Forensic, Walter Jay or Likie. They were registered at addresses across the US, many a long way from the college at which they supposedly studied. Prosecutors allege bogus student records and transcripts were created for these ‘students’ so they could get their Form I-20, a step towards obtaining an F-1 student visa. This was done for ‘the purposes of deceiving the immigration authorities’, the News India Times reported. Students paid up to $1,800 in ‘enrolment’ fees for a course of six months, with no intention of studying .

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