5 Indians charged with participating in visa, financial fraud

5 Indians charged with participating in visa, financial fraud

5 Indians charged with participating in visa, financial fraud

Five Indians have been arrested and charged with participating in a wide-ranging student visa and financial aid fraud schemes in the US.

Suresh Hiranandaney (60), Lalit Chabria (54), Anita Chabria (49), Seema Shah (41) and Samir Hiranandaney (27 )face student visa fraud, wire fraud and student financial aid fraud and were presented before US Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein in Manhattan federal court here yesterday.

The charges carry prison time from five to 20 years.

"Through their for-profit schools, the defendants defrauded the government and exploited their students. For their personal financial gain, the defendants allegedly made false certifications about the schools' compliance with visa and financial aid regulations when, in fact, they were not," Manhattan federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge James Hayes said the defendants allegedly "orchestrated a wide ranging fraud scheme, which included the falsification of student and financial aid files and failure to report to the government students who were non-compliant with the terms of their student visas, that victimized American taxpayers."

According to the complaint, the five were associated with for-profit school Micropower Career Institute (MCI) which had five campuses in New York and New Jersey, as well as with the Institute for Health Education (IHE).

Suresh Hiranandaney was MCI’s President, his sister Anita Chabria was MCI’s Vice President, his brother-in-law Lalit was MCI’s Vice President and IHE’s President.

Suresh's son Samir was a director at MCI campus while Shah was a high-level employee at MCI’s Manhattan campus.

The five represented to immigration authorities that MCI and IHE were legitimate institutes of higher learning where foreign students carried full course loads.

In reality, the majority of foreign students at the schools did not attend the required number of classes. The defendants did not report this to authorities and continued to collect approximately USD 10,000 in annual tuition from each of these students.

When a campus of MCI came under regulatory scrutiny, the defendants would simply transfer students with delinquent attendance to an affiliated school that was not under scrutiny.

The accused also fabricated and manipulated documents in student aid files at MCI to hide the school's widespread non-compliance with Department of Education regulations. The department provides financial aid to low-income post-high school students to assist them in affording higher education.

MCI did not comply with federal laws and regulations governing the administration of such financial aid.

Foreign citizens are granted F-1 student visas to remain in the US as long as they are pursuing full courses of study at approved schools. If a student fails to attend classes as required, the school is required to inform immigration authorities, so that the authorities may terminate that student’s visa.