Five Indians, including four from the same family, have been arrested and charged with participating in a wide-ranging student visa and financial aid fraud schemes in the United States.
Suresh Hiranandaney (60), his son Samir Hiranandaney (27), sister Anita Chabria (49), brother-in-law Lalit Chabria (54) and employee Seema Shah (41) face student visa fraud, wire fraud and student financial aid fraud.
They were presented before US Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein in Manhattan federal court here on Thursday.
The charges carry prison term 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).
Hiranandaney was MCI’s President, Anita was MCI’s Vice President, Lalit was MCI’s Vice President and IHE’s President.
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.