Trio ran Micropower Career Institute, Institute for Health Education.
NEW YORK: Three Indian Americans – Suresh Hiranandaney, 61, Suresh Chabria, 54, and Anita Chabria, 51 – who ran shady and fraudulent for-profit schools in the New York City tristate area, have pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to criminal conspiracy charges for their involvement in student visa fraud and financial aid fraud schemes.
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the guilty plea of the trio.
The trio each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit student visa fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit student financial aid fraud.
They agreed to forfeit $7,440,000 of proceeds of the student visa fraud conspiracy to the United States government, and agreed to pay $1,000,000 in restitution to the United States Department of Education (“ED”) for losses from the student financial aid fraud conspiracy, according to the Justicew Department.
The defendants were arrested in May 2014, along with co-defendants Samir Hiranandaney and Seema Shah, following a long-term investigation by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, and ED’s Office of the Inspector General.
“Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria, and Anita Chabira turned their for-profit schools into instruments of fraud to exploit our nation’s foreign student visa and domestic student financial aid programs for their own personal financial gain. Education fraud remains a high-priority focus of ours and we will prosecute all those who make a self-serving sham out of education,” said Bharara, in a statement.
The trio were associated with the Micropower Career Institute (“MCI”), a for-profit school with five campuses in New York and New Jersey, or the Institute for Health Education (“IHE”), a for-profit school located in New Jersey.
Suresh Hiranandaney was MCI’s President; his brother-in-law, Lalit Chabria, was MCI’s Vice President and IHE’s President; and his sister, Anita Chabria, was MCI’s Vice President.
Foreign citizens are granted F-1 student visas to remain in the United States 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.
The trio, however, failed to report to immigration authorities that foreign citizens were not attending classes at MCI and IHE as required. The defendants and others fraudulently portrayed MCI and IHE to immigration authorities as legitimate institutes of higher learning where foreign students carried full course loads.
In reality, the majority of foreign students at MCI and IHE did not attend the required number of classes. The trio failed to report this to immigration authorities as required, while MCI and IHE continued to collect millions of dollars in tuition from foreign students with delinquent attendance. When a campus of MCI came under regulatory scrutiny, the defendants and others transferred foreign students with delinquent attendance to affiliated schools (such as another MCI campus or IHE) that were not under scrutiny.
In another scheme, the trio, and others, falsified documents in student financial aid files at MCI in order to hide MCI’s failure to timely return financial aid funds received by MCI for domestic students who had dropped out of MCI.
In violation of federal laws and regulations governing the administration of financial aid payments to eligible low-income students, MCI failed to return to ED substantial sums of financial aid funds that ED had disbursed to MCI for domestic students who dropped out of MCI without an authorized leave of absence. Specifically, the defendants and others falsified student files by altering documents in the files, or in some cases creating entirely fabricated documents, to conceal MCI’s failure to return such funds to ED and ensure that ED would not terminate MCI’s eligibility for future financial aid funds.
Each count that trio pleaded guilty to carries a maximum of five years in prison. The defendants’ sentencing date is scheduled for September 10, 2015.