The saga of Tri Valley University and founder Susan Su is an eye-opener to one way the immigration and educational systems can be exploited and how students can be caught in the middle. We hope folks here in Columbus take a close look at the case.
In January the United States government seized property owned by Susan Su, director of Tri Valley University (TVU), due to allegations related to fraud and other illegal activity. In forfeiture proceedings where typically the properties are the named defendants, the U.S.government asserts that the properties were acquired with illegal funds. The government asked the court to turn over the property due to misuse of visas and permits, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Court documents outline the alleged offenses which occurred during an elaborate defrauding scheme between 2008 and 2010.
In April of 2008, Susan Su created TVU, an entity that supposedly offered online college classes. The government's complaint explains that while the private learning institution was seeking accreditation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), students were already being recruited and tuition was being paid. In reality the existence of the university was purely for fraudulent purposes.
The focus of TVU was to gain foreign immigrant students by securing F-1 visas. TVU was developed as an illegal institution that allowed foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States and be considered "students" as long as $2,700 "semester" fees were paid. DHS's explanation for not identifying the scheme is that the current immigration system is inadequate for tracking the educational status of foreign nationals. The reason DHS offers for not catching the scheme exonerates the students, who appear to be the true victims of DHS's failures and the school's alleged fraud.
The complaint asserts the first offense committed by TVU and Su was a willing misuse of the visa program. Throughout the accreditation process TVU completed federal documents using inaccurate information in order to circumvent Homeland Security. To receive accreditation by the DHS, TVU had to submit a Form I-17 petition. Su and her staff misled the government by claiming they were operating a legitimate school.
The second offense that occurred was mail fraud. In addition to filling out federal documents, TVU had to supply DHS with three articulation statements from major universities asserting credits earned at TVU would be transferable to larger learning institutions. Mail fraud occurred when TVU sent the fraudulent documents and statements to DHS through the U.S. Postal Service.