Another Visa Mill Got Busted
Based on a news release from the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement
LOS ANGELES – The owner of four schools that enrolled hundreds of foreign nationals who fraudulently obtained immigration documents allowing them to remain in the United States as “students” – even though they rarely, if ever, attended classes – was sentenced today to 15 months in federal prison and ordered to forfeit more than $450,000.
Hee Sun Shim (also known as Leonard Shim and Leo Shim), a Korean descent, 54, of Hancock Park, was sentenced by U.S. District Court. in March 2015, Shim was ordered to forfeit to the government $431,508 seized from bank accounts and $34,860 in cash seized during the execution of a federal search warrant at his former residence in Beverly Hills.
Which U.S. Government Units Busted the Visa Mill?
This case was first investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with substantial assistance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Fraud Detection and National Security Division
Last year, Shim pleaded guilty of committing immigration fraud and one count of immigration document fraud. Prosecutors called Shim’s scam “a sophisticated, extensive, and lucrative fraud scheme that operated for many years in the Koreatown area of Los Angeles.”
Shim, along with two co-defendants – ran a “pay-to-stay” scheme through three schools in Koreatown – Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center (WJMD); and the American College of Forensic Studies (ACFS). A fourth school in Alhambra – Likie Fashion and Technology College – was also involved in the scheme, which ran for at least five years.
Shim’s Prodee and the other schools issued immigration documents to foreign nationals who had no intention of attending the Californian schools and sometimes lived outside of California – including in the states of Washington (about 18 hours away by driving) and New York (about 41 hours away by driving.)
Visa Mill: Pay and Stay – Immigration Fraud
In order to deceive U.S. authorities, Shim created bogus student records, including transcripts, for some of the students. In exchange for the immigration documents that allowed them to remain in the U.S., the student paid “tuitions” to Shim and his co-conspirators.
The investigation, in this case, began in 2011 after a compliance team with HSI’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program, made an unannounced site visit to Prodee University’s main campus on Wilshire Boulevard. During the visit, the team observed only one English language class with three students in attendance, even though records indicated nearly 1,000 foreign students were enrolled at Prodee’s two campuses. That same day, an unannounced visit to ACFS found only one religion class in session with a single student present, even though the school had more than 300 foreign students in active status.