A strange encounter at a fundraising gala

By Cristina DC Pastor

My Friend, who shall not be named because of an ongoing federal investigation, called early morning today. He does not usually call at 7 a.m. unless it’s an urgent matter or I phone him and I am expecting a callback.

Friend met a couple of a people at the recent Pan American Concerned Citizens Action League (PACCAL) fundraising gala at the Ramada Plaza in Newark. They were friendly, seemingly distinguished women who were nicely dressed and spoke very well. Friend enjoyed the company of the women and spent time with them for the most part of the event. He thought he made some really nice acquaintances that night.

The next day, Friend was shocked to read the news: “Fed set up fake university, arrest 21 in bogus visa case.” The women he met at the PACCAL party appeared to be part of this scam. Friend remembered their conversation and how the women were urging him to refer students to them.

“Cristina,” cried Friend on the phone. “You’re not going to believe what happened to me at PACCAL.”

An Associated Press report alleged a syndicate is operating in the New Jersey area recruiting foreign nationals in exchange for student visas to the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ) in Cranford. Problem is, there is no such university!

The UNNJ being cited is a sting operation, according to the report, meaning the school was created by the Department of Homeland Security specifically to catch the people who are fraudulently recruiting foreigners in exchange for visas.

“The school was a sham from beginning to end – and it was created by federal authorities, who used it to arrest 21 people on charges they conspired to help more than 1,000 foreigners fraudulently keep or obtain student or work visas over the past 2½ years,” says the AP report. “Most of the foreigners who benefited from the scam were from China and India and were already in the U.S. on student visas, federal prosecutors said. Officials said they have been identified and will be dealt with by immigration authorities – meaning they could face deportation – but won’t be prosecuted.”

Friend was still recovering from shock. He is not sure if the women he met at the party were among those arrested in the alleged “pay to stay visa scam.” But the details of what they do for a living – ‘helping foreign students with their visa needs’ plus a reference to the bogus university – were still ringing in his ears.

Friend was amused. The experience was bizarre as it was dreadful.

“I cannot believe…” he said and stopped there. “They even asked me to make referrals.”

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