Billing itself as a STEM institution and a nationally accredited business school, the University of Farmington was selling the idea of providing students with an innovative curriculum, flexible class schedules with inclusivity and diversity at reasonable prices.

The fake university was a part of a sting operation to ensnare foreign nationals that came to the country under a student visa before they settled down in the States.

As far as the indictments are considered, about 129 students were Indian nationals belonging to the Telugu ethnic group.

What Is The Fake University Sting Operation?

Just like the world’s top models were used to advertise the luxurious idea of a music festival off Pablo Escobar’s island in the Bahamas before the entire Fyre controversy, a couple of students lounging around the university campus with books while engaged in a rapt conversation advertised the idea of a unique educational experience.

The university had no classes, instructors or professors. The campus of the school that had no quad or library in sight was a cover-up run by undercover agents working for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

After pitching in thousands of dollars, students would provide immigration authorities with the evidence that they were enrolled in a full-fledged education program while continuing to live and work in the US under a student visa.

ICE Fake University
The site of the University of Farmington advertising the dream of a unique educational institution

The students were free from any University protocol which required them to take tests or show up to class as there was no functioning school.

The University of Farmington was included in the Department of Homeland Security’s list of certified schools giving it a false pretense of being a legitimate institution.

Posts on Facebook and Twitter notifying students about the upcoming admissions fair with the Latin motto-“Scientia et Labor”, meaning “Knowledge and Work”, garnered a handful of positive reviews from students claiming to be alumni of the institution.

There were a number of clues which could make anyone see the loopholes before enrolling in a fake school. For instance, there was no information regarding the President of the University or the year when the school was founded.

The photo promoting diversity in a university quad that grabbed the eyeballs came from Shutterstock.

There was no trace of the University in the directory of accredited institutions despite claiming that it was accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.


You Can Also Read: Double Standards Of Indian Teachers; An Incident Of My College


Were the 129 Indians Arrested By The US Immigration Authorities Aware That The University Was A Fraud?

As per the prosecutors, students who chose to enroll allegedly had a clear image that there was no school in order to remain in the country on F-1 nonimmigrant visas allowing foreign citizens to temporarily reside in the US while studying at the accredited academic institutions.

Federal indictments included eight people in eight students for creating fraudulent records, transcripts and enrolling additional students in a university that didn’t exist apart from receiving $250000 cash as kickbacks for their work which came from the pockets of the undercover agents.

ICE Fake University
The site of the University of Farmington was set up by undercover agents

The prosecutors delivered a surefire response that everyone involved with the school knew that they would not attend any actual classes, earn credits or make academic progress toward an actual degree in the particular field of study.

In fact, the indictments said that the students knew that discretion was exercised while discussing the program with others.

With most of the students comprising of Indian nationals, the ministry of external affairs of India seemed concerned that the students were duped into enlisting themselves at the University of Farmington in Michigan.

In a bid to prevent the authorities from detaining the students against their will, the ministry urged for immediate consular access for Indian officials to the detainees citing the concern for the dignity and the well-being of the detained students.

Mr. Mannan, an immigration lawyer, had his share of thought regarding the whole sting operation criticizing the operation as misleading considering the fact that many students actually believed that they were enrolling for a real school.

According to him, students, especially from India, came to the US only to find that their intended program had lost accreditation. They enrolled at the University of Farmington to apply prior credits to the new program that seemed to emphasize the work experience.

Some of the students enrolled in the program as a “stopgap measure” waiting to get approved for a specialty work visa after they had completed their legitimate master’s program in the US.

This is what Matthew Schneider, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, had to say in a statement media outlet with reference to the string of events that followed the sting operation,

“We are all aware that international students can be a valuable asset to our country, but as this case shows, the well-intended international student visa program can also be exploited and abused.”


Sources: The Washington Post, the New York Times, The Independent

Images: Google Images

You can follow the blogger on Twitter at  @dhar_aatreyee


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