Farmington Hills, MI – The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 250 foreign students who enrolled at a fake university set up by federal agents as a sting operation.
The foreign students enrolled in The University of Farmington in a “pay-to-play” scheme in an attempt to remain in the country under a student visa, according to CBS.
The fake college was created by ICE officials in an attempt to lure foreign-born students who knew that they wouldn't actually be attending the fake university.
Agents created an elaborate front for the imaginary school, registering a .edu website with lots of pictures of happy students attending classes, and a promise of a curriculum that was flexible for work schedules, the Detroit News reported.
That website has since been shut down and has a notice on it that it was closed by immigration.
University of Farmington, which was launched in 2015 under the Obama administration, also had active social media profiles and was accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, the same legitimate organization that worked with DHS on the New Jersey sting in 2016, the Detroit News reported.
Most of the students were from India and had arrived legally in the country on legitimate visas, according to CBS.
The university was staffed by federal agents who posed as university officials and it was shut down in January, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Public records showed that federal immigration enforcement officials followed the exact same playbook that they used in New Jersey in 2016 when they arrested 21 students enrolled in the imaginary University of Northern New Jersey, the Detroit News reported.
The eight recruiters "collectively received $250,000 in cash and kickbacks to find students to attend the university."
Then they helped those students obtain fake documents from the university that would make it easier for them to get student visas, such as student records and transcripts, according to the Detroit News.
The problem was that none of the students were actually attending or participating online in any classes because, beyond its targeted recruiting, the University of Farmington did not exist.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Helms defended the creation of the phony university, which advertised it was offering graduate programs in technology and computer studies, according to the Detroit Free Press.
"Their true intent could not be clearer," Helms wrote in a memo, according to the Detroit Free Press. "While 'enrolled' at the University, one hundred percent of the foreign citizen students never spent a single second in a classroom. If it were truly about obtaining an education, the University would not have been able to attract anyone, because it had no teachers, classes, or educational services."
An ICE spokesperson told CBS that the fake university serves as a deterrent because it is a reminder to foreign students they must follow the law while studying in the U.S.
The Detroit Free Press reported that many of the students arrested have been deported to India but others were fighting their removals.
One of the students arrested was allowed to stay in the U.S. when an immigration judge granted lawful permanent resident status, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Horrified Democrat politicians took to twitter to express their outrage.
"It's creative, and it's not entrapment," former federal prosecutor Peter Henning told the Detroit News. "The government can put out the bait, but it's up to the defendants to fall for it."