Nationwide Sweep Nets 21 Arrests in Alleged Student Visa Fraud Scheme

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twenty-one people who allegedly helped more than 1,000 foreign nationals fraudulently obtain student visas were arrested Tuesday morning by federal agents in a nationwide sweep.

The foreign nationals are now working at companies throughout the United States illegally.

The arrests represent the conclusion of a three-year investigation into the exploitation-for-profit of nonimmigrant student visas.

To help catch the alleged criminals, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) federal agents set up a fake university, called the University of Northern New Jersey, that provided work authorization for hundreds of "students."

The so-called students will now be placed under administrative arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), placed into immigration proceedings and likely deported.

Those who bought the phony papers work for the U.S. military, as well as Facebook, Google and other well-known companies, according to a law enforcement official. The buyers were "fully aware" they were acquiring fraudulent documents, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

The companies are not implicated in the scheme and were unaware of the fraud. They are just finding out Tuesday that their employees allegedly used fake documents.

The case exposes a potential route to the United States for would-be terrorists and touches the political controversy over the H-1B visa, a nonimmigrant visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.

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