L.A. Woman Gets Home Detention for School `Pay-to-Stay' Immigration Scam

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles woman was sentenced today to six months of home detention for her involvement in a multimillion-dollar ``pay-to- stay'' scheme that helped hundreds of foreign nationals remain in the United States by falsely claiming student status.

Eun Young ``Jamie'' Choi, 38, was also ordered to serve five years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Choi was the last of three defendants to be sentenced in the scheme, which may have generated as much as $6 million a year from citizens of South Korea, China and other nations.

The conspiracy operated through Prodee University/Neo-America Language School; Walter Jay M.D. Institute, an Educational Center; and the American College of Forensic Studies. A fourth school in Alhambra, Likie Fashion and Technology College, was also involved in the scheme, which ran for at least six years.

Prodee and the other schools issued immigration documents to foreign nationals who were not bona fide students, had no intention of attending the schools and sometimes lived outside of California.

As part of the conspiracy, Choi and the other defendants created bogus student records, including transcripts, for some of the students for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities. In exchange for the immigration documents that allowed them to remain in the United States, the purported students made ``tuition'' payments to enroll and remain at the schools.

Last month, Hyung Chan ``Steve'' Moon, 42, was sentenced to four months behind bars for his role in the scheme. The former owner of the schools - - Hee Sun ``Leonard'' Shim, 54, of Beverly Hills -- was sentenced in April to 15 months in federal prison. All three defendants pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to conspiracy and immigration document fraud charges.

The investigation began in 2011 after a compliance team with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, paid an unannounced visit to Prodee's main campus on Wilshire Boulevard.

During the visit, the team observed only one English language class with three students in attendance, even though records indicated more than 900 foreign students were enrolled at Prodee's two campuses. That same day, an unannounced visit to the forensic studies college found only one religion class in session with a single student present, even though the school had more than 300 foreign students in active status, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Photo: Getty Images

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