Man Charged in Visa Fraud Scheme

Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times, April 10, 2008

The operator of two English language schools was charged Wednesday with running a scheme that allowed foreign nationals, including several Russian prostitutes, to fraudulently obtain student visas to enter and stay in the United States.

Bezhad “Ben” Zaman, 50, of Beverly Hills, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Iran, was arrested by federal agents without incident in what investigators believe is the largest student visa fraud scheme ever staged on the West Coast, authorities said. He was charged with seven counts of fraud and misuse of visa, one count of conspiring to money-launder and six counts of concealment for money laundering.

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Zaman runs Concord English Language Center and the International College for English Studies, both on Wilshire Boulevard. He is suspected of helping ineligible foreign nationals fraudulently obtain student visas and keeping them enrolled in his schools even though they did not attend classes, authorities said.

The so-called F-1 visas allow foreigners to remain in the country as long as they are studying full time at a federally approved school.

Both of Zaman’s schools had received federal approval.

But investigators allege that as early as 1999, Zaman had been charging foreign nationals several thousand dollars each to obtain student visas. He allegedly told them that although they did not have to attend his schools, they would be reported to federal authorities if they stopped paying tuition.

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