Fake Schools in California Draw Scrutiny of Federal Investigators

Sudhin Thanawala, Mercury News, January 24, 2015

From her hometown in India in 2010, Bhanu Challa said she had no reason to doubt that Tri-Valley University was a legitimate American school where she could pursue a master’s degree. Its website featured smiling students in caps and gowns and promised a leafy campus in a San Francisco Bay Area suburb.

Months later, her hands were in cuffs as federal investigators questioned her motives for being in the U.S. Authorities told her that Tri-Valley was a sham school. It was selling documents that allowed foreigners to obtain U.S. student visas, and in some cases work in the country, while providing almost no instruction, according to federal investigators.


Tri-Valley is among at least half a dozen schools shut down or raided by federal authorities in recent years over allegations of immigration fraud. Like Tri-Valley, they had obtained permission from U.S. immigration officials to admit foreign students.

But most offered little or no instruction or didn’t require all students to attend classes, instead exploiting the student visa system for profit, investigators said.

“If there’s a way to make a buck, some people will do it,” said Brian Smeltzer, chief of the Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Last year alone, Smeltzer said, his office flagged about 150 of the roughly 9,000 schools certified to accept foreign students for investigation as potential visa mills.

Meltzer said many of the schools the agency investigates are in California, which has the highest number of foreign students and schools certified to accept them. New York has the second most.

Government watchdogs say the recent visa fraud cases have exposed gaps in ICE’s oversight of schools that admit foreign students–a problem the agency says is being corrected. And experts say the scams hurt the reputation of the U.S. higher education system, which currently enrolls about 900,000 foreign students.


At College Prep Academy in Duluth, Georgia, president Dong Seok Yi conspired to enroll some women with the understanding they would not attend classes, but work at bars, prosecutors alleged. He was convicted of immigration document fraud and sentenced last year to 21 months in prison.

Investigators say Tri-Valley, with more than 1,000 students, many Indian nationals, was among the largest school fraud scams they have encountered. The school’s founder and president, Susan Xiao-Ping Su, used more than $5.6 million she made in the scam to buy commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz and multiple homes, federal prosecutors said.


Jerry Wang, CEO of another San Francisco Bay Area school, Herguan University in Sunnyvale, is also facing visa fraud charges. Prosecutors say he provided federal officials with false employment information about students, transcripts and a letter purporting to show another school accepted Herguan’s credits. He has pleaded not guilty, and the school remains open.


To be certified by immigration officials to accept foreign students, schools must be accredited by a Department of Education-approved organization or have their courses accepted by at least three accredited schools.

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report said ICE was not always verifying letters purporting to show the school’s courses were accepted elsewhere. It also said ICE was failing to analyze schools for patterns pointing to fraud. The agency now verifies every school credit letter and has developed a tool to assess the seriousness of any school violations.


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  • Well, well, the Federal government finally found immigration fraud it wanted to stop.

    Inconvenient truth: The only reason it did this was because it’s hurting legitimate (“–“) tertiary education, and that industry happens to be a huge supply of Democrat Party money, voters, and of course tertiary education is in some ways little more than the youth auxiliary of the Democrat Party.

    The notion that “genuine” use of student visas at “real” colleges hurts native born white Americans? Crickets.

    • propagandaoftruth

      It was selling documents that allowed foreigners to obtain U.S. student visas, and in some cases work in the country, while providing almost no instruction, according to federal investigators.


      While providing almost no instruction? Well at least that’s in line with modern educational theory and practice…

      • Good point. Brainwashing them into believing some of the unmitigated [email protected] I heard as an undergrad would be far more destructive. Some examples:

        “Noodles are naturally green, but white males bleach them in order to make them less nutritious.” Huh?

        “Eating meat is racist.” Huh?

        “The methyl isocyanate disaster in Bhopal, India was actually a US neutron bomb test.” An act of war that would have left radioactive debris in the area and thus would have required continual connivance on the part of the Indian government.

        “All heterosexual intercourse is really just rape.” Am I penetrating her, or is she engulfing me?

    • evilsandmich

      Exactly, the only people permitted to exploit this scam are big universities who do so with gusto. There’s more than a few high schools now-a-days that are in on this as well.

  • Red

    I lived in Duluth, Georgia for about 2 years in the mid 1980s. It was a beautiful and pristine suburb of Atlanta. Gwinnett Place Mall had just opened…

    The undertow eventually swept Whites further north and once the area was abandoned, the Orientals came in and colonized it.

    I saw a bunch of shady looking places the last time I went through there, specifically massage parlors with mirror tint on the windows.

    • Samuel Hathaway

      Yes, Duluth, Georgia… I remember well it was a sleepy little country town with signs to Alpharetta on GA Highway 120. And the Union 76 truck stop off I-85. As a teenager, i always cherished my journies up to the country in Duluth, up to Alpharetta. Once I saw the sign for Forsyth County, way up the in the country, I knew i’d gone a bit far and it was time to go back home.

      Yes, Duluth has fallen hard, being overtaken by the Oriental, Hispanic, east Indian mish-mash…i haven’t been back to Duluth in over a decade.

  • They’re too busy hiring black incompetoids and brown diversitards to do any work. Dey gots ta be haben dem gubmint jobs, gnome sane?

    I am rarely angry here, but the needle has moved a bit to “peeved”. I don’t know what I’m going to do, except probably make something.

  • LHathaway

    The Problem is these institutes providing phony documents, and high paying jobs, to girls. Unless we need to even import girls here to marry affirmative action females. Apparently, these arrests are saying we don’t.

  • Su, mentioned in this article, received a 16 year federal prison sentence. Even with max time off for good behavior, she’ll have to serve a minimum of 14 years of that. There has been no parole in the feds for any cases originating after 1986.