Su, 41, was taken into custody on Monday morning at her Pleasanton, California, home by special agents of the Homeland Security Investigations of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She made her initial appearance in a federal court shortly after her arrest.
Su, who also served as the school's chief executive officer, is accused of engaging in a two-year scheme to defraud the department of Homeland Security by submitting phony documents in support of Tri-Valley University's applications to admit foreign nationals on student visas.
The indictment further alleges that after obtaining such approvals, Su fraudulently issued visa-related documents to students in exchange for "tuition and fees." According to the indictment, Su admitted and maintained foreign students in exchange for tuition and other payments.
In furtherance of the F-1 visa scheme, Su also allegedly harboured multiple Tri-Valley University student-employees to assist her in making the false representations to the student and exchange visitor information system. The indictment further alleges the defendant engaged in multiple money laundering transactions totalling more than USD 3.2 million using proceeds she derived from the visa fraud scheme.
"Thee indictment alleges a visa fraud scheme through which the defendant accrued millions of dollars and took advantage of others' eagerness to come to the United States," said United States Attorney Melinda Haag.
"Student visas are intended to enable people from around the world to come to this country to enrich themselves with the wealth of educational opportunities available here," said ICE Director John Morton.
The ICE said the "F-1" student visa programme is designed to allow foreign nationals who are bona fide students to be admitted to the US on a temporary basis to study at an approved school. F-1 students are admitted for a temporary period during which they are required to pursue a full course of study at an approved school.
When a student stops pursuing a full course of study, the duration of status ends and the temporary period for which the individual was admitted expires. In administering the F-1 visa programme, DHS relies on the representations made by the schools and students. The 33 counts contained in the indictment carry maximum penalties ranging from one to 20 years imprisonment. The charges include wire fraud; mail fraud; visa fraud and conspiracy to commit visa fraud; use of a false document; making false statements to a government agency; alien harboring; unauthorised access to a government computer and money laundering.
According to a federal complaint filed in a California court in January, the TVU had helped foreign nationals illegally acquire immigration status. The university is said to have 1,555 students. As many as 95 per cent of these students are Indian nationals, the complaint said.
Investigations by US ICE have found that while students were admitted to various residential and on-line courses of the university and on paper lived in California, but in reality they "illegally" worked in various parts of the country as far as Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Texas.