ATLANTA — The former head of an English language school in Duluth, Ga., and a co-conspirator have been sentenced for bringing 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.
According to the charges and other information presented in court, Dong Seok Yi was the president and CEO of an English language school named College Prep Academy (CPA). 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 (SEVP), and obtained approval for CPA to enroll foreign-born students and issue I-20 forms, which enable 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 SEVP certification for CPA, he and his co-defendants began facilitating the issuance of F-1 student visas to foreign-born individuals who were not entitled to, or eligible for, the visas. Yi 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 in the bars, which are also known as room salons. CPA issued the females fraudulent I-20s that included false financial information.
"This defendant's fraud scheme exploited a federal program that offers valuable educational opportunities to foreign students, and he instead took advantage of this program for his own personal gain," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "It's especially disappointing when someone victimizes a program like this that is designed to give foreign students a beneficial educational experience."
"The SEVP provides foreign students with a valuable opportunity to be educated in the United States," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "By abusing the system to disguise workers as students, the defendant and his co-conspirators sought to enrich themselves and have damaged the educational experience of their legitimate students. HSI and our partners at the FBI will continue to work together to bring those who attempt to undermine the integrity of our immigration system to justice."
J. Britt Johnson, special agent in charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: "These defendants took advantage of the generous student studies programs offered by the United States to instead engage in alien smuggling. This sentencing will afford these defendants the time and opportunity to reflect upon their criminal actions."
Co-defendant Sook An Kil aka Stacy Kil, 42, of Duluth, was the academic coordinator and designated school official for CPA and signed the I-20s under penalty of perjury. She also certified in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), a computerized system maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, that CPA's "students" were active and attending class even though many never attended. SEVIS 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 CPA.
Yi, 53, of Duluth, and co-defendant Chang Seon Song, 52, of Suwanee, the former Academic Director for CPA, referred individuals to another co-defendant, Sang Houn Kim aka Chris Park, 54, of Diamond Bar, Calif., to obtain false documents to support their F-1 visa applications. Kim 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 CPA profited by charging thousands in quarterly tuition payments for maintaining the immigrant on the student rolls.
Yi was sentenced to one year, ninth months in prison. Kim was sentenced to one year in prison by United States District Judge Orinda D. Evans. Both defendants were sentenced to three years of supervised release. The Court also ordered the forfeiture of $36,867 from the bank accounts associated with the school, which were seized at the time of the defendants' arrests and the execution of a federal search warrant at the school. On Feb. 7, 2014, Yi was convicted of immigration document fraud after pleading guilty. On Jan. 8, 2014, Kim was convicted of conspiring to commit immigration document fraud after pleading guilty.
Song and An Kil are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Evans July 1, 2014, at 3 p.m. Both have pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit immigration document fraud. In determining the sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Assistant United States Attorneys Stephen H. McClain, Susan Coppedge and G. Jeffrey Viscomi are prosecuting the case.
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 were given the option of enrollment and transfer to another accredited educational program or returning to their home countries voluntarily.
SEVP monitors approximately one million international students pursuing academic or vocational studies (F and M visa holders) in the United States and their dependents. It also certifies schools and programs that enroll these students. The U.S. Department of State monitors exchange visitors (J visa holders) and their dependents, and oversees exchange visitor programs.
Both agencies use SEVIS to protect national security by ensuring that students, visitors and schools comply with U.S. laws. SEVP also collects and shares SEVIS information with government partners, including CBP and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so only legitimate international students and exchange visitors gain entry into the United States.
HSI reviews potential SEVIS records for potential violations and refers cases with potential national security or public safety concerns to its field offices for further investigation. Additionally, SEVP's Analysis and Operations Center reviews student and school records for administrative compliance with federal regulations related to studying in the United States.
Learn more about SEVP at www.ICE.gov/SEVP.