Friday, March 5, 2010

Visa Fraud in a School?

Published: March 4, 2010

MIAMI — More than 80 people have been arrested in connection with a language school here that the government says was a front for the sale of fraudulent applications for student visas, immigration authorities said Thursday.

Two of those arrested, Lydia Menocal and Ofelia Macia, ran the school, the Florida Language Institute in Miami, the authorities said, and were masterminds behind the scheme, which helped residents of more than a dozen countries enter the United States fraudulently.

The visa recipients, officials of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement said, rarely, if ever, attended classes at the school, which Ms. Menocal owns. Indeed, fewer than 5 percent of the students attended class, investigators found.

In announcing the arrests, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jeffrey Sloman, noted that several Sept. 11 hijackers “were foreign nationals who abused the student visa program to enter and stay in the United States illegally.”

According to the indictment, the language school first received approval from the Department of Homeland Security and then issued the requisite federal forms to the prospective students so they could apply for and receive student visas. Ms. Menocal swore on the forms that the students would attend classes.

In all, 81 students were arrested, but one was released

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