A grand jury in Oakland, Calif., last month indicted Susan Xiao-Ping Su, president and CEO of the now-defunct Tri Valley University, on 35 counts of visa fraud, harboring aliens, money laundering and wire fraud.
If convicted of all criminal charges, Su faces a maximum of 66 years in prison and a monetary fine of more than $2 million.
Hundreds of the 1,500 former students of TVU are facing deportation from the U.S., after federal authorities raided the university Jan. 19 and found it to be a sham school offering no actual classes. Foreign students are only allowed to take one course per semester online and must fulfill the rest of their course load in person.
Several of the students have enrolled in new universities and have filed to have their student status reinstated, but have received notices of intent to deny their applications.
The 18-page indictment, which supersedes an earlier charge sheet, chronicled in detail how Su had purposefully defrauded TVU alumni, the majority of whom are from Andhra Pradesh.
“Su and others engaged in an illegal scheme to defraud non-immigrant aliens of money and property, specifically tuition and other fees,” noted the indictment.
Su and others recruited and admitted foreign students to TVU without regard to their academic qualifications, and collected tuition and other payments from them in exchange for obtaining their foreign student status, stated the indictment. Recruiters were paid commissions for referrals of new students.
TVU officials also falsified statements to the Department of Homeland Security, providing false immigration documents, transcripts and attendance records.
Immigration attorney Kalpana Peddibhotla, who represents many former TVU alumni, said the new indictment was a significant development in the 11-month-long case.
“Prior to this indictment, the Department of Justice had not officially recognized the fraud by Susan Su against the students,” Peddibhotla told India-West.
“This is further evidence for the reinstatement of former TVU students,” she said.
The indictment also details 10 counts of money laundering, including one instance where proceeds from such a transaction were used to purchase a Mercedes Benz. Su also owned several real estate properties which must now be forfeited by her.
In related news, the South Asian Bar Association of Northern California has joined forces with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to urge DHS to examine its treatment of former TVU students. SABA and CAPAC urged DHS to articulate clearly the criteria for reinstatement and to acknowledge that the students were defrauded.
The organizations also urged DHS to develop and implement a plan to prevent future cases of exploitation at universities.
Former TVU students have initiated a petition drive to garner support for their case. The petition can be accessed online via the group’s Facebook page: “A personal appeal from the students at TVU.”