Authorities on Wednesday arrested three Southland residents allegedly involved in a “pay-to-stay” scheme that helped hundreds of foreign nationals remain in the United States by falsely claiming student status.
The alleged enterprise — which may have generated as much as $6 million a year for the defendants — involved three schools in Koreatown — Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center; and the American College of Forensic Studies — and Likie Fashion and Technology College in Alhambra, authorities said.
The defendants are named in a 21-count indictment returned Tuesday by a Los Angeles federal grand jury and unsealed Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Those named in the indictment are:
— Hee Sun Shim, also known as Leonard Shim and Leo Shim, 51, of Beverly Hills, the owner and manager of the schools;
— Hyung Chan Moon, also known as Steve Moon, 39, of Los Angeles, who assisted with the operation and management of the schools; and
— Eun Young Choi, also known as Jamie Choi, 35, of Los Angeles, a former employee who assisted with the operation and management of the schools.
The indictment alleges a conspiracy to commit immigration fraud, a host of immigration offenses, money laundering and an allegation that would require the defendants to forfeit property and proceeds derived from the scheme, prosecutors said.
“Immigration fraud schemes potentially compromise national security and cheat foreign nationals who play by the rules,” said Acting United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura. “In this case, officials at several schools allegedly abused their responsibility to ensure that only legitimate foreign students were allowed to the stay in the country. This type of fraud against the United States will be thoroughly examined to bring those responsible to justice and to protect the integrity of our immigration system.”
Said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, “Given the implications for national security and public safety, we will move aggressively to target individuals who compromise the integrity of our nation’s immigration system out of greed and self-interest.
“Simply put, those who exploit the benefits of the student visa program can expect to get a lesson in criminal justice,” Arnold said.
The indictment charges Shim, Moon and Choi with conspiring to commit immigration fraud, federal prosecutors said.
Shim is charged with 13 counts of use or possession of an immigration document procured by fraud; and Moon and Choi are each charged with one count of the same offense. Shim is charged with three counts of encouraging illegal residence, as well as two counts of money laundering.
The conspiracy count carries a sentence of up to five years in federal prison, the substantive immigration fraud charges each carry up to 10 years in prison, and the money laundering charges carry a potential penalty of 20 years, prosecutors said.
— City News Service