TVU case may mean tougher scrutiny of schools for immigrants

Tri-Valley University president fights back with online posts, donation requests

The investigation into an illegal school in Pleasanton may lead to sweeping changes and closer looks at schools that bring immigrants into the country.

Susan Xiao-Ping Su, the founder and president of Tri-Valley University, was charged in 2011 with setting up a bogus college, and bringing students and their spouses to Pleasanton on illegal visas. Su faces a multi-count federal indictment on charges of money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud.

The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) is currently being audited by the Government Accountability Office as a follow-up to the investigation into Tri-Valley University.

The university, which operated out of a small, two-story office on Boulder Court, lost its certification and closed, following a raid last May by federal officials from ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement division of Homeland Security.

Court documents claim Su "made false statements and misrepresentations in petitions to DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to obtain student visas from the government," according to charges in U.S. District Court in Oakland. "Su and Tri-Valley University have made millions of dollars in tuition fees for issuing these visa related documents which enable foreign nationals (to) obtain illegal student immigrant status."

The document says Su ran an "elaborate fraud scheme" that netted millions of dollars from foreign nationals who hoped to become legal immigrants, and that Su used profits from her scam to buy five properties, including two homes in Pleasanton raided by ICE -- at 2890 Victoria Ridge Court and 1371 Germano Way.

Su, who was released on a $300,000 bond, is apparently fighting back while awaiting trial. Documents posted at the TVU site refute the federal charges and a website has been established to solicit donations to fight the federal case.

The investigation received media coverage and caught the attention of members of Congress who asked about Student and Exchange Visitor Program's process for school certification, leading senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) to request the Government Accountability Office audit.

The audit will examine the process through which Student and Exchange Visitor Program certifies academic institutions and the process used to monitor their compliance. It will also review the technological capabilities of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System to see how to strengthen the system's ability to detect fraud.

Students of the university have pleaded not guilty, and the federal government now considers them to be victims of a fraud and not perpetrators.

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