LOS ANGELES – The proprietor of 4 faculties that enrolled a whole lot overseas nationals who fraudulently obtained immigration paperwork permitting them to stay in the US as “college students” – regardless that they not often, if ever, attended lessons – pleaded responsible Thursday to federal immigration fraud expenses.
Hee Solar Shim (also called Leonard Shim and Leo Shim), 53, of Beverly Hills, the proprietor and supervisor of the faculties, pleaded responsible Thursday morning to conspiracy and immigration doc fraud.
Shim, together with two co-defendants – ran a “pay-to-stay” scheme by way of three faculties in Koreatown – Prodee College/Neo-America Language College; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Academic Heart (WJMD); and the American School of Forensic Research (ACFS). A fourth faculty in Alhambra – Likie Trend and Know-how School – was additionally concerned within the scheme, which ran for at the least six years.
Prodee and the opposite faculties issued immigration paperwork to overseas nationals who weren’t bona fide college students, had no intention of attending the faculties, and typically lived exterior California. As a part of the conspiracy, Shim created bogus pupil data, together with transcripts, for a few of the college students for the aim of deceiving immigration authorities. In trade for the immigration paperwork that allowed them to stay in the US, the purported “college students” made “tuition” funds to Shim and his co-conspirators to “enroll” and stay enrolled on the faculties.
“Immigration fraud schemes equivalent to this permit overseas nationals to bypass immigration controls and enter, in addition to stay in, the US unlawfully, which compromises nationwide safety and the strict algorithm that official immigrants observe,” stated United States Legal professional Eileen M. Decker. “These defendants not solely undermined the immigration system, however they did a disservice to the entire immigrants following the foundations for entry into the U.S.”
Two different defendants named within the 2015 indictment – Hyung Chan Moon (also called Steve Moon), 40, of Los Angeles, and Eun Younger Choi (also called Jamie Choi), 37, of Los Angeles – beforehand pleaded responsible and are pending sentencing.
The investigation on this case started in 2011 after a compliance staff with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Safety Investigations (HSI), Pupil and Change Customer Program, paid an unannounced go to to Prodee College’s fundamental campus on Wilshire Boulevard. Through the go to, the staff noticed just one English language class with three college students in attendance, regardless that data indicated greater than 900 overseas college students have been enrolled at Prodee’s two campuses. That very same day, an unannounced go to to ACFS discovered just one faith class in session with a single pupil current, regardless that the college had greater than 300 overseas college students in energetic standing.
Through the ensuing investigation, HSI particular brokers recognized a number of dozen overseas nationals, primarily from South Korea and China, who initially entered the U.S. as F-1 non-immigrant college students to attend different faculties, however subsequently transferred to varsities within the Prodee community. These college students lived throughout the nation, indicating that they weren’t truly attending lessons at Prodee or the opposite faculties.
As detailed in court docket filings, Prodee and its affiliated faculties have been approved to situation a doc that licensed a overseas nationwide had been accepted to a faculty and could be a full-time pupil. The doc – “Certificates of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Pupil Standing – for Tutorial and Language College students,” which is often referred to as a Type I-20 – made a pupil eligible to acquire an F-1 pupil visa that may permit the scholar to enter and stay in the US whereas the scholar was making regular progress towards finishing a full course of research.
“Because the defendant and his co-conspirators knew, these Type I-20s have been based mostly on false claims, false statements, and fraud because the purported overseas college students had no intention of attending faculty and weren’t bona fide college students,” in accordance with Shim’s plea settlement.
“Pupil visas are supposed to afford folks from all over the world a chance come to this nation to counterpoint themselves with the huge studying alternatives accessible right here, however this defendant was excited about a unique sort of enrichment, his personal,” stated Joseph Macias, particular agent in cost for HSI Los Angeles. “HSI will transfer aggressively in opposition to those that compromise the integrity of our nation’s visa system and put America’s safety in danger within the course of. As this defendant realized, those that abuse the generosity of our overseas pupil visa program can anticipate a lesson in prison justice.”
On account of Thursday’s responsible pleas, Shim faces a statutory most penalty of 15 years in federal jail. He’s scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Choose George H. Wu June 5.
In his plea settlement, Shim agreed to forfeit to the US roughly $465,000 in financial institution funds and money that have been seized by investigators in 2015.
The investigation into the Prodee faculties was performed by HSI, which obtained substantial help from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Providers’ Fraud Detection and Nationwide Safety Division.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Wilson Park of the Violent and Organized Crime Part, Lindsey Greer Dotson of the Public Corruption and Civil Rights Part, and Katie Schonbachler of the Asset Forfeiture Part.