Federal prosecutors have labeled Pleasanton, California-based Tri-valley University a sham, alleging that the institution was merely a facade used by the authorities to run a racket that facilitated illegal student immigration status for foreign nationals and authorized them to remain in the United States.

Bay Area News Group publication Contra Costa Times has reported that the Tri-Valley University founded by Susan Su earned millions of dollars in tuition fees since its establishment, luring foreign students, a majority from India, by granting F-1 visas. The university had received approval in February 2009 to grant F1 visas for about 30 students.

For a student to acquire and maintain an F-1 visa, he must physically attend classes and show that he is making reasonable progress towards course completion. The University on the other hand catered mostly to online students and falsely registered their address as that of a single apartment in Sunnyvale. Upon investigation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities, it was found that four university students lived at that address between 2007 and 2009 but there have been none since. Between May 2009 and 2010, however, the number of active students who received F-1 visas from Tri-valley University went up from 11 to 939.

Incidentally, this is not the first time that a student visa-related fraud has been uncovered in the State. In March 2010, Eamonn Daniel Higgins from Santa Ana California was arrested on charges of operating a ring of illegal test-takers, who faked their identity and wrote various proficiency and college-placement exams on behalf of dozens of Middle Eastern nationals, helping them to obtain US student visas. Around the same time, a Florida language school was also exposed as having helped more than 80 foreign nationals, who were purportedly studying at the school but were found never to have attended class, in illegally obtaining student visas.