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.

Filed Under: dhs, fake profiles, fake university, ice, immigration, sting operation
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Dan Neely (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:08am

    I wonder if Facebook can use logs to associate the people who created fake accounts back to those individuals real accounts. Suspending the accounts of all the ICE people involved in this for violating FB's TOS would be a really nice bit of turn about for this whole sordid saga.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Zof (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:08am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Tin-Foil-Hat, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:40am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:46am

      Re: Why you here bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:49am

        Re: Re: Why you here bro?

        You um, realize there is exactly one person on Earth that would care enough to post this right? You can literally be one person on Earth using null logic. It's that terrifyingly easy to math you out.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:09am

    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)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:17am

    Cops... the law... demands the absolute truth from YOU while lying through their teeth.

    2 kinds of criminals in this world... ones you dont know about and the ones with badges in blue, out in the open. Ill take my chances with the former.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:19am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeffrey Nonken (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:26am

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

      "That is the very definition of a sting."

      I would say, of entrapment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wyrm (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:00pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:45pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 6:19am

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

        You mean like the sting that nailed a bunch of people fencing stolen goods through a fake store named BEE'S? (the logo was a bee with a large STINGER)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:24am

    Nothing is Entrapment

    If the FBI can plan a terrorist plot from start to finish, approach a schizophrenic, threaten him and his family if he doesn't comply and that isn't entrapment then neither is this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:25am

    The wrong people are on trial in this case, as isn't it meant to be the fraudsters on trial, on not their victims?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 11:56am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:55pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:20pm

    but yet do the same thing with child porn FIRST, and it sets a precedent. You folks remember that right?? yall wondered why. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle, Go Joe!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Doug Burbidge (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 12:51am

    A fake university that had a physical campus potential students could visit and was nationally-accredited

    Was it fake though? If it was nationally accredited, then it would seem to me like it wasn't fake, and therefore none of its students have done anything wrong?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Apr 2019 @ 7:16am

      Re:

      Well, it was fake, in that showing up to class would leave you rather disappointed in the lecture (or lack thereof)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McKay (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 3:58pm

    What makes it a fake university?

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a university created by the government. This isn't fake, this is the government helping foreigners legally into the country.

    If blizzard uses BitTorrent to distribute their game client, it's not illegal.
    If Kim dotcom releases his album on Mega, it's not unauthorized sharing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 19 Apr 2019 @ 11:19am

    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?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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