Suresh Hiranandaney, 61, of Dix Hills, N.Y., Lalit Chabria, 54, and his wife Anita Chabria, 50, of Old Bethpage, N.Y., all reportedly senior executives of a chain of for-profit schools were sentenced in Manhattan for their role in a multimillion dollar student financial aid fraud scheme.
According to reports, the trio defrauded the U.S. Department of Education of $1 million in education grant funds and ran a visa fraud scheme that netted them more than $7.4 million in illegal revenues, according to Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bharara announced the sentences on January 27, which were delivered by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken. Hiranandaney and Lalit Chabria each received one year and one day in prison, and Anita Chabria got off with a lighter sentence of six months in home confinement. Judge Oetken also ordered the three to forfeit $7,440,000 for the student visa fraud and to pay $1,000,000 in restitution for the student financial aid fraud.
Hiranandaney and the Chabrias were arrested in May 2014, along with co-defendants Samir Hiranandaney and Seema Shah, following a long-term joint investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, and the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General.
“Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria, and Anita Chabria exploited our nation’s financial aid and foreign student visa programs, engaging in a long-running fraud scheme that generated millions of dollars,” Bharara is quoted saying in the release, adding, “The defendants greedily took advantage of programs meant to help people get a higher education, and in the process, committed federal crimes.”
According to court documents, the three executives were with the Micropower Career Institute (“MCI”), a for-profit school with five campuses in New York and New Jersey, or the Institute for Health Education (“IHE”), a for-profit school located in New Jersey, both of which offered vocational, language, and other classes to, among others, domestic students whose tuition was partially covered by DOE financial aid, and foreign students who were allowed to stay in this country on student visas requiring that they pursue full courses of study at bona fide educational institutions.
Hiranandaney was MCI’s president; his brother-in-law, Lalit Chabria, was MCI’s chief executive officer and IHE’s president; and Anita Chabria, Hiranandaney’s sister and Lalit Chabria’s wife, was MCI’s vice president and the director of MCI’s Mineola Campus in Mineola, New York.
The DOE paid $1 million in grants to MCI to cover tuition of domestic students. The three executives falsified and manipulated documents to hide MCI’s failure to timely return financial aid money received by MCI for domestic students who had dropped out of MCI. They also made the $7,440,000 in illicit profits by defrauding immigration authorities by concealing the fact that they were collecting millions in tuition fees from foreign students who were not attending courses required to stay in the country. The remaining defendants, Samir Hiranandaney and Seema Shah, are scheduled to be sentenced later this year before Judge Oetken.