The Chief Executive Officer of Herguan University in Sunnyvale, California has been arrested and charged with visa fraud. This is the second similar charge levied against the chief executive of a California-area university that the federal officials described as a “visa mill.” The charges came about as a result of an investigation conducted by the Mercury News which found that Herguan, along with Tri-Valley University, falsified information on applications in order to be allowed to sponsor international students for student visas.
Jerry Wang, the 32-year-old head of Herguan, was picked up by law enforcement officers last week at his home in Santa Clara. He was charged with 15 counts of fraud that could see him jailed for as many as 23 years. In addition, he could be forced to pay as much as $1 million in restitution and fines.
The unsealed indictment shows that Wang is accused of falsifying documents and making false statements to regulators, among other misdeeds. Wang’s arrest also threatens the immigration status of Herguan’s 450 international students, most of them out of India.
“We actually don’t know what is happening at all,” said one student who would only give his first name as Rai.
Last year, dozens of students at Tri-Valley University faced deportation threats and similar questions when federal agents raided the unaccredited school and charged its president, Susan Su, with raking in millions of dollars in a major visa scam.
Federal investigators found more than 550 students enrolled in the Alameda County university were registered as living at the same address: a two-bedroom apartment on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale.
When the Tri-Valley scandal broke last year, Senator Dianne Feinstein called for an investigation into schools that sponsor a larger-than-normal number of international students. A recent report by the GAO seems to indicate that the problem is widespread.
In addition to heading up Herguan, Wong also serves as the CEO of University of East-West Medicine — whose offices are located in the same building. So far, federal officials haven’t indicated that they’ve discovered anything amiss at East-West.
“All we know is that Homeland Security showed up unannounced this afternoon,” said Richard Friberg, vice president of University of East-West Medicine, who denied any knowledge of the alleged fraud. He said agents looked for images on computers and took copies of files.
Herguan now faces the loss of its authorization to enroll foreign students under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has taken the first step to revoke its certification; the university has 30 days to contest the action.
All classes at Herguan were canceled last week, but Richard Friberg, the vice president of the University of East-West Medicine, said that the school will reopen this week. However, if the school doesn’t reopen its doors, its visa students will have to transfer to another school allowed to sponsor visas — or lose their right to stay in the U.S.