ICE's Fake University Sting Operation Also Used A Bunch Of Fake Facebook Profiles

from the BULLSHIT-U dept

In an effort to boost bust numbers and further cement its reputation as the ugly embodiment of punitive xenophobia, ICE set up a fake university in Michigan to ensnare immigrants attempting to do something the law allows them to do: stay in the country while they earn a degree.

This wasn’t just some online university with sketchy bonafides. This was a (bogus) university sporting a real campus and accreditation secured from a national accreditation service — everything needed to start converting tuition fees into arrests and detentions. ICE took in $60,000 in application fees alone before it started rounding up people who, for the most part, were just trying to do something legal. Instead of being able to live and work in the US while they completed a degree, more than 160 duped students were taken into custody by ICE. So far, only eight are actually facing charges.

In this day and age, it takes more than national accreditation to convince people you’re real. You also need a social media presence. As The Guardian reports, ICE also steamrolled Facebook’s terms of use while engaging in this bullshit sting operation.

More than 600 students, nearly all Indian citizens, were caught up in the scheme, which the Guardian has found included fake Facebook profiles created by the nation’s second largest federal investigative agency, Ice’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division.

“Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page,” a Facebook representative told the Guardian. “Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts.”

These details have started to leak out now that the prosecutions of the eight people arrested have started to move forward. One of ICE’s fake accounts went by the name of Ali “AJ” Milani — a supposed Detroit resident sporting a friends list filled with South Asian residents. Another was Carey Ferrante, a bogus account that was “friends” with Milani and exchanged messages with potential students. At least five accounts have been identified as bogus fronts for ICE personnel. All of these went dark after The Guardian approached ICE for comment.

Fake Facebook accounts, shoring up the backstory for a fake university. A fake university that had a physical campus potential students could visit and was nationally-accredited, thanks to an overly-helpful accreditation service. All of this added up to a university that looked and felt like the real thing. And yet, our government insists everyone who got faked out of application fees, tuition, and extending their stay in the United States knew exactly what they were getting into.

In the indictment, the government said: “Each student knew that the University’s program was not approved by the United States Department of Homeland Security, was illegal, and that discretion should be used when discussing the program with others.”

This assertion isn’t going to hold up — not when the agency’s actions directly contradict this claim. Documents and statements obtained by the Detroit Free Press show the government straight up lied to students during this sting:

The university was placed by federal investigators on the website of ICE as an university approved by them under a government program for foreign students known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program).

None of this looks good for ICE — or for our government as a whole. The fake Facebook profiles may be the smallest of the lies told, but it shows the government has zero respect for the private people and institutions that happen to find themselves between it and its objectives. Whether its terms and conditions or enshrined rights, if they’re in the way, they’ll just need to be ignored.

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Comments on “ICE's Fake University Sting Operation Also Used A Bunch Of Fake Facebook Profiles”

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25 Comments
Zof (profile) says:

This is the most unethical activity I’ve heard of recently. And I had just heard about the feds putting a fake employee at Tommy Chong’s factory and having him mail a bong to a state where that isn’t legal to get their conviction.

This would be like literally setting up a fake place to get your driver’s license renewed to bust people that need to get it done.

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Re: Nah

It’s unethical but not the most unethical. They do this sort of thing all the time. Fascim and authoritarianism don’t come in waving a neon sign. They inch their way in a little at a time. It can start with a court ruling that creates constitutional crack that is pried open little by little. Like the "good faith" exception that allows all but the most egregious violations.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Remember, ICE didn’t just list the university on the website as being approved.

At the request of DHS, a national accreditation agency listed the University of Farmington as being accredited in order to help deceive prospective students.

The university was also placed by federal investigators on the website of ICE as an university approved by them under a government program for foreign students known as SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Program)

Anonymous Coward says:

How are foreigners supposed to know that the sting was a sting?

If it was accredited, accepted money and gave out acceptance letters, that was 100% illegal on the government’s behalf. That is the very definition of a sting. These people would have applied to real universities if they weren’t told that this place was a new university that met their requirements.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: How are foreigners supposed to know that the sting was a sti

A sting is to let people commit a crime they were going to commit anyway, while setting the conditions to catch them red-handed easily. (eg setting a bait or infiltrating the group.)

Entrapment is to make people commit a crime when they had no intention to. (eg harassing or threatening them or, as in this case, luring them to commit a legal action while placing them in an illegal context that they didn’t know about.)

There are various ways to trick people into committing a crime unknowingly, and it’s supposed to be illegal for law enforcement to do so. If you let that through, you basically let LEO jail anyone they want.

This was 100% entrapment as everything was setup to look legitimate. A sting would have had something like a recruiter for the university tell the students that they have ways to provide fake immigration papers or something similar. You must confirm that the would-be student wanted to enroll with the purpose of breaking the law.

So, to answer your question, they weren’t supposed to know because it was a trap.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How are foreigners supposed to know that the sting was a

Entrapment is to make people commit a crime when they had no intention to. (eg harassing or threatening them or, as in this case, luring them to commit a legal action while placing them in an illegal context that they didn’t know about.)

It’s technically entrapment, but usually there’s the connotation that the people know they’re committing a crime. $1000 if you transport this mystery-bag of white powder across state lines, or whatever. The cops didn’t talk these people into criminal activity, they talked them into going to University.

Anonymous Coward says:

We’ve been looking the other way at unethical or illegal behavior for generations, with each person thinking what they see is normal, or not wanting to face retaliation for ratting them out.

Kind of like how libertarians don’t want government involvement, say in measles vaccines, because that’s a matter of personal choice, and then they wonder why they were infected.

This country is rotten to the core. Money and power talk, not honesty, because no one listens to the latter, and everyone worships the former.

Anonymous Coward says:

Can't wait for the inevitable lawsuits

All of the students duped into applying for acceptance need to sue the agents involved with this entrapment. If they aren’t punished, they will be able to do it again and again until they look just like the FBI with their fake takedowns that were only possible because of their entrapments.

John85851 (profile) says:

What's the issue to be solved?

Admittedly, I didn’t click on the links and read the related stories, but what issue is ICE supposed to be solving? Why is it a problem for people to be able to legally stay in a country while they’re going to school? Is ICE saying the foreigners taking spaces away from native citizens?
And as usual, doesn’t ICE have better things to do with their resources? Or are they getting bored since so many people are complaining about illegal border searches?

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