ATLANTA – The head of College Prep Academy in Duluth and other school officials have been indicted on charges of conspiring to bring illegal aliens into the country and issuing them fraudulent immigration documents following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
"These defendants are charged with using a student visa program as a front to cashing in on bringing immigrants here to work in local bars," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "From manufacturing false documents, to charging thousands of dollars in tuition payments to maintain the immigrants on their rolls, the defendants are charged with subverting the purpose of the student VISA program for profit."
"Granting access to American schools to foreign students enriches both the student and the United States," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "Protecting the integrity of that system from fraud and abuse is an important part of our overall enforcement of immigration law."
"The FBI remains a key law enforcement partner with respect to the ongoing and continued efforts to enforce immigration laws," said Mark F. Giuliano, special agent in charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office. Those individuals who systematically abuse our generous system that provides for higher education within the U.S. should rightly be a focus of those law enforcement efforts."
According to Yates, the charges and other information presented in court; Dong Seok Yi, 52, of Duluth, is the president and CEO of the English language school named College Prep Academy. He also owns the Korean Times Atlanta, a newspaper company. In 2009, Yi filed an application with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Student and Exchange Visitor Program, and obtained approval for College Prep Academy to enroll foreign-born students and issue I-20 forms, which enables students to stay in the United States. Foreign-born students who are issued I-20s from universities and other institutions of higher education can get F-1 student visas permitting them to remain in the United States during the time of their schooling.
Once Yi obtained Student and Exchange Visitor Program certification for College Prep Academy, he and his co-defendants allegedly began facilitating the issuance of F-1 student visas to foreign-born individuals who were not entitled to, or eligible for, the visas. Yi allegedly conspired with Korean bar owners to enroll females into the school with the understanding that the females would not attend classes as required but would instead work as prostitutes in the bars. College Prep Academy issued them fraudulent I-20s that included false financial information.
Co-defendant Sook An Kil, a/k/a Stacy Kil, 41, of Duluth, who is the academic coordinator and designated school official for College Prep Academy, signed the I-20s under penalty of perjury. She also certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, a computerized system maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, that College Prep Academy's "students" were active and attending class even though most never attended. Student and Exchange Visitor Information System records show that the school claimed enrollment of up to 100 students when less than half that number were attending class. Many simply began living and working in the country after obtaining a student visa from College Prep Academy.
Yi and co-defendant Chang Seon Song, 51, of Suwanee, the academic director for CPA, referred individuals to another co-defendant, Sang Houn Kim a/k/a Chris Park, 53, of Diamond Bar, Calif., to obtain false documents to support their F-1 visa applications. Kim allegedly manufactured and provided fraudulent passports, I-94 forms, school transcripts, bank statements, family registries and other false documents to illegal immigrants to use in support of applications for F-1 visas. Kim charged the aliens thousands of dollars for the fraudulent documents. Yi and College Prep Academy profited by charging thousands in quarterly tuition payments for maintaining the immigrant on the student rolls.
A federal grand jury indicted the defendants March 5 and returned a superseding indictment against them April 2. Federal agents also executed a federal search warrant at the school Wednesday and seized bank accounts associated with the school.
The indictment charges one count of conspiracy and eight counts of making false statements in immigration documents. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and each false statement count carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. Each count carries a fine of up to $250,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Given the enforcement action against College Prep Academy's owner, designated school official and academic director, investigators have been working with the U.S. Department of State – Consular Affairs Section to provide legitimate and prospective students with information regarding their options for maintaining their F-1 status. Students will be given the option of enrollment and transfer to another accredited educational program or returning to their home countries voluntarily.
Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen H. McClain, Susan Coppedge, and Thomas J. Krepp are prosecuting the case.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment contains only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove the defendants' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.