Law enforcement officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) went to great lengths to investigate and charge international students with visa fraud. So far, in fact, that the defendants might be able to raise a strong entrapment defense.
ICE Creates Fake College to Lure International Students Into Visa Fraud
Around 250 international students had enrolled in the University of Farmington, a college in Michigan that was federally accredited and advertised itself as offering graduate-level STEM classes. By enrolling, international students stood to receive an F-1 student visa that would allow them to live in the U.S. while they pursued their education full-time.
The only problem was that the University of Farmington didn't exist. It was a fictional university created by law enforcement agents at ICE to lure international students into committing visa fraud. ICE agents created a website for the “college” and even managed to get a federal agency to accredit it and make it look legitimate. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) even listed the fake school on its online list of approved institutions for international students.
Undercover ICE agents then hired recruiters to solicit international students and convince them to come to their fake school. Many of those students actually transferred from real colleges.
How the Entrapment Defense Works
Entrapment is a legal defense to a criminal charge. It argues that police did not catch the defendant doing something illegal; they induced the defendant into doing it.
Rather than catching a criminal, police created one. Because of the police overreach, the entrapment defense argues, the defendant should not be held accountable for what happened.
In Pennsylvania, entrapment is actually written into the criminal code. 18 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 313 prohibits law enforcement from “inducing or encouraging” criminal activity by either:
- Creating the false belief that the conduct is not illegal, or
- Creating a substantial risk that the offense will be committed by “persons other than those who are ready to commit it”
Proving either of these elements is up to the defendant, though. They have to prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. If successful, the charges can be dropped or the jury should issue an acquittal.
In this case, the students accused of committing visa fraud have a stronger entrapment defense than most. While ICE officials have repeatedly claimed that the students who enrolled in the fake University of Farmington “should have known better,” and were aware that it was a “pay to stay scheme,” the fact that ICE got the fake school accredited by a federal agency cuts against a student's ability to figure it out.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who represents the accused. The entrapment defense is a crucial tool that he can use to help people who have been victimized by police overreach.
If you have been accused of a crime in Philadelphia, call his law office at (215) 535-5353 or contact him online for the legal help you need.