Federal Appeals Court Greenlights Student Lawsuits Against ICE for ‘Fake University’ Sting Operation

After a ruling by the federal appeals court on June 25, prospective students who paid thousands to a fake University created by Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be allowed to sue.

The fake university was part of a sting operation by ICE to target individuals who commit visa fraud. In 2019, the plan was revealed when eight people were charged with “harboring foreigners for profit.”

Documents filed in court show that the operation was intended to target fraud involving visas for students, but there were no classes offered no curriculum, and no educators.

In his lawsuit, [Teja] Ravi claims that he was fooled by the fake school when he applied. He was not refunded for the tuition he paid.

The appeals court stated in its opinion that “the government’s operation was eventually revealed, but it did not provide the paid-for educational services nor give Mr. Ravi back his money.”

Ravi, an Indian citizen who lived in Houston at the time he applied for the scholarship in 2018, filed on behalf of all other applicants a class-action lawsuit alleging a breach of contract.

Ravi claims in his lawsuit that he has paid $12,500 for tuition at what he believed was a legitimate institution of higher education. He claims that he received emails purporting to university officials. This gave the institution an air of legitimacy.

Two other plaintiffs paid $10,000 and $15,000 in tuition fees but did not receive any education. The case was dismissed by a lower court.

Anna Nathanson, the attorney who represents the prospective students praised the decision, saying it allowed “600 students unfairly targeted by the fake ICE University to have their say in court.”

Eight individuals are facing charges for allegedly trying to enroll foreign students in universities to keep them in the United States.

The lawsuit claims that ICE stole money from people who were trying to get an education. This is although the sting operation led to the arrest of over 200 students.

Attorneys filed a lawsuit in 2020 against the U.S. Government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on behalf of Teja and other students enrolled in the University of Farmington. The University of Farmington no longer exists since ICE closed it in 2019 and arrested more than 250 of its students. In the lawsuit, the U.S. claimed that they had breached the contract with students by stealing their tuition funds. Each student received about $11,000 per year. The students are demanding their money and punitive damages. The legal claim, however, was rejected in 2022 on technical grounds by the Claims Court. They said that the case did not have jurisdiction. On June 25, three judges of the appeals court reversed that decision and sent the case back to Claims Court.

On Thursday, February 7th, 2019, the Department of Homeland Security set up a fake University of Farmington Campus in Farmington Hills. Students claim they were tricked by the fake university into paying tuition and enrolling.

Vance Callender defended the actions of the ICE. He was the special agent responsible for the Detroit office. He told reporters:

HSI agents made it clear to potential University of Farmington students that, as part of the undercover operation, there were no academic or vocational programs offered by this school. Individuals who enrolled at the University of Farmington did it on purpose.

Students, the majority of whom were Indian, entered the United States legally under the F-1 student visa program when they enrolled at the fake university. Nearly 80 percent of 250 students who enrolled in the fake university were deported later.