Tejesh Kodali, 45, of Edison, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in Newark federal court to committing visa fraud. The conspiracy to commit visa fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing for Kodali is scheduled for March 13, 2017.
Kodali, the chief executive officer and managing director of two companies admitted on Dec. 1, to recruiting foreign nationals to enroll at a “pay to stay” New Jersey college to keep their student visa status and get full-time work authorizations without having to attend classes.
On April 5, 2016, 22 brokers, recruiters, and employers, including Kodali, were charged with enrolling foreign nationals in the University of Northern New Jersey, a purported for-profit college in Cranford, New Jersey (UNNJ) which was actually created by Homeland Security Investigations in September 2013. It was not staffed with instructors or educators, had no curriculum, and conducted no actual classes or education activities. It operated solely as a storefront location staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.
Kodali – an Indian citizen and lawful permanent resident in the United States – was the director of operations of Promatrix Corp. and Blue Cloud Techs Corp., entities that claimed to be international student recruiting and consulting companies located in Edison.
The Homeland Security set up UNNJ represented itself as a school that, among other things, was authorized to issue a document known as a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students,” commonly referred to as a Form I-20. This document, which certifies that a foreign national has been accepted to a school and would be a full-time student, typically enables legitimate foreign students to obtain an F-1 student visa. With the visa, they can enter or remain in the United States while they study full-time at a certified institution.
Kodali told his foreign national clients that for a fee, they could enroll at UNNJ without having to attend any classes and that their enrollment would enable them to fraudulently maintain their nonimmigrant status. With full knowledge that the recruits were not bona fide students and would not attend any courses, earn credits, or make academic progress toward any legitimate degree at UNNJ, Kodali caused Forms I-20 to be issued to the foreign nationals.
Kodali also caused the foreign nationals to be reported in government databases as legitimate foreign students. “In order to deceive immigration officials, Kodali and his foreign clients obtained and created fraudulent student documents, including attendance records and transcripts,” a press release from the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman, said.
After enabling them to maintain their student visa status, Kodali also conspired to secure fraudulent work authorizations for some of their foreign clients. He admitted that his intention was to profit from the scheme by outsourcing these foreign individuals through Promatrix and Blue Techs as information technology consultants with various businesses in the United States for commissions. In total, Kodali and his conspirators fraudulently maintained and attempted to obtain 37 student visas and/or work authorizations.