Four former Tri Valley University students of Indian origin, who faced federal criminal charges in the United States, have been spared serving one-year jail time.
On July 11, 2014, the day of sentencing, the Indian students told US Magistrate Judge Kandis A Westmore at the federal courthouse in Oakland, California, that they regretted what they have done.
The four students faced federal criminal charges for conspiracy to commit visa fraud and aiding and abetting the commission of visa fraud at TVU. They pleaded guilty pursuant to cooperation plea agreements on March 22 last year.
The students have been served a probation sentence and community service.
On January 18, 2011, federal agents raided Tri-Valley University run by Susan Xiao-Ping Su, president and founder of the school.
Of the 1,760 students in the school, 98 per cent were from India.
On March 25, the jury found Su guilty of 31 counts, all arising from Su's visa fraud scheme, wire fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of a false document, false statements to a government agency, alien harbouring, unauthorised access to a government computer, and money laundering.
During the proceedings, Judge Westmore told one of the students that he accepted the money knowing what he was doing.
'It's a serious nature of offense,' said Judge Westmore.
When the student requested the judge to waive the fine, saying, 'I am sorry. I have suffered a lot of stress and I am the only one to support the family', the judge said, 'Your action in this scheme is a little troubling to me.'
On May 7, 2011, this student called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- ICE -- telephone tip-line and identified himself as a student. He informed the ICE that the TVU president was issuing F-1 to students with unauthorised access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
Ginny H K Walia, the student's defence attorney, told Rediff.com after the ruling, "I am pleased with the judgment today. We have been fighting this battle for several years now. These students fell into Susan Su's trap and landed in a lot of legal trouble."
"Judge Westmore was very fair in her sentencing by not imposing any jail time," Walia said.
The students received a probation sentence for a guilty plea to one misdemeanour count. All felony charges were dismissed.
Probation essentially is a conditional release that prohibits the defendant from violating any laws. An individual who is placed on probation must not break any state or federal laws during the period of probation.
Additionally, he must comply with all court orders. If one violates probation, the court has the power to impose jail time that the court did not impose in the first place.
The court may also impose additional penalties such as extending the time of probation and fines.
"We fought the good fight on behalf of these students. Justice was served. I am quite pleased with the end result," Walia, who succeeded in reducing both probation timing from two years to six months and fine to half, said.
Kenneth William McGuire, another student's attorney, did not seem pleased with his client's probation period.
"I appreciate the judge for not giving him 12 months jail time as asked by the court," McGuire told Rediff.com. "My client is ignorant and came from a different country and is not aware of the law. He is humble and is different from the rest of the defendants."
This student told Judge Westmore, 'I am extremely sorry. I did something wrong unknowingly. I am not bold or smart. I am in too much of stress and try to help myself. I feel like a hostage and the officers are hostile. I want to finish my studies and go back to India.'
A third student told the judge, 'I am sorry for what I have done. I regret for it every day and want to move forward.'