The founder of the California-based Tri-Valley University, who destroyed the academic careers of several hundred Indian students in the United States, has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for running a sham university that served as a front for an immigration scam.
Susan Xiao-Ping Su, 44, was sentenced after being convicted on 31 counts of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, alien harbouring and other charges related to running an immigration scam, the US Department of Justice announced.
"Every year our country welcomes academically qualified students from all over the world to learn from our country's best and brightest," US Attorney Melinda Haag said on Friday, while adding, "The defendant's scheme took advantage of this highly valuable immigration process, reducing opportunities for legitimate, worthy student applicants."
Su opened the Tri-Valley University in 2008, setting up shop in a California office park, boasting a faculty of 50 and offering online courses in engineering, medicine and law.
Hundreds of Indian students in the US are facing deportation after the Tri-Valley University was forced to shut down by US authorities after it was found facilitating illegal immigration.
The unaccredited university grew from 11 students with visas to 939 in a one year span in 2010. Tri-Valley charged students $2,700 (about Rs 1.65 lakh) in tuitions per semester.
Homeland Security raided Su's home in Pleasanton in January 2011 and she was charged with running a two-year scheme that charged hundreds of foreigners -- mostly Indian nationals -- tuition and other payments for visa-related documents that allowed them to live and work in the US while Su claimed they were here to study.
Through her illegal operations involving visa fraud and wire transfers Su made over $5.9 million (about Rs 36.21 crore) through her operation of Tri-Valley University, prosecutors said.
She engaged in seven money laundering transactions using proceeds to purchase commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz car, and multiple residences, including a mansion in California.
The investigation began in May 2010 following a tip to federal investigators pertaining to irregularities at the university.
District Court Judge Jon S Tigar ordered Su to forfeit $5.9 million and pay more than $900,000 (about 5.52 crore) in restitution.