SAN FRANCISCO — A San Francisco Bay Area woman was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for running what prosecutors said was a sham university that served as a front for an immigration scam.
Susan Xiao-Ping Su, founder and president of the phony Tri-Valley University in Pleasanton, was accused of charging foreigners tuition and other payments for visa-related documents that allowed them to live in the U.S. while she purported that they were here legally to study. She made more than $5.6 million and used the money to buy commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz and multiple homes, including one at a golf club, federal prosecutors said Monday.
U.S. District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar sentenced Su, 44, on Friday after she was convicted in March of visa fraud and other charges. She was also ordered to forfeit $5.6 million and pay more than $900,000 in restitution, prosecutors said.
"Student visas are intended to give people from around the world a chance to come to this country to enrich themselves with the vast learning opportunities available here," Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, San Francisco, said in a statement. "But in this case, the defendant was interested in a different kind of enrichment, her own."
The Tri-Valley case is not unique in the Bay Area. Jerry Wang, the chief executive officer of Herguan University and the University of East-West Medicine in Sunnyvale, is also facing visa fraud charges in connection with what authorities say is a similar scheme. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial next month.
In the Tri-Valley case, employees testified that the school had no graduation and admission requirements, and that Su instructed her staff to fabricate transcripts and other documents.
The school described itself as a "Christian higher education institution" that provided higher education in engineering, business and ministry, according to court documents.
Su allegedly paid recruiters for referring new students.