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129 Students arrested in US ‘pay and stay’ Scam

129 Indian students in the United States of America are fighting a tough legal battle of “pay-to-stay” scam, for wrongly being enrolled in a fake university in Detroit’s Farmington Hills. Amid the ongoing administrative detention, at least 30 students from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have returned back to India.

According to IANS, Telugu organisations, working with these students, have said that returning home was the safest option for the students who were not detained or received notices for violation of immigration laws.

According to the information released by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), 130 students were arrested on Thursday, February 7. Out of these 130 students, 129 were Indians.

This is the first time that such a huge number of Indian students have been arrested.

About 600 foreign students, 90 per cent of them Indians, had enrolled themselves with a fake University of Farmington floated by the US authorities under a sting operation. More than 80 per cent of these students were from the two Telugu states.

While eight students, who worked as recruiters, were arrested, 129 were kept under aadministrative detention at different places.

“Those who had shifted to other universities are safe but there is no problem for others in returning home,” Buchiram Kalapatapu, chief coordinator, Andhra Pradesh Non-Resident Telugu (APNRT) Society, told IANS.

As many as 249,763 Indian students were enrolled in the various American universities in 2017.

“Even if a university is offering online courses, the students should find out if it has physical presence or not. This particular university was offering online courses but had no physical presence,” said Buchiram.

Each student had paid $20,000 to $25,000 to enrol in the fake University of Farmington, which recruited students in 26 states across the US.

Ravikumar P. Vemuru, President of APNRT Society, had earlier said that since there was no clear-cut intention by the students to defraud the US government, the maximum punishment they could undergo was deportation.

APNRT is working with the Indian Embassy to provide legal assistance to all the students. It is working closely with Indian Consulate in Houston.

Students can seek help by just dialling at 202-322-1190 and 202-340-2590
The arrested students, their friends and family members can contact the embassy at cons3.washington@mea.gov.in.

The officials are working to get a bail for eight students who have been arrested. One of them has already got the bail.

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