Founder of online university convicted of visa fraud


The founder and president of an online university based in Pleasanton was taken into custody Monday after a federal court jury found her guilty of 35 counts for running a visa fraud scheme.

Susan Su

Federal prosecutors alleged Tri-Valley University, which was run by Susan Xiao-Ping Su, 43, of Pleasanton, was a bogus, unaccredited venture designed to rake in millions of dollars from foreigners who sought to obtain student visas so they could stay in the U.S.

In addition to visa fraud, Su was convicted Monday of conspiracy, wire fraud, use of a false document, false statements to a government agency, alien harboring, unauthorized access to a government computer and money laundering.

Prosecutors said evidence at Su’s three-week trial before U.S. Judge Jon Tigar shows she engaged in a two-year-scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by submitting fraudulent documents in support of the university’s petition for approval to admit foreign students.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that after Su obtained that approval she fraudulently issued visa-related documents to student aliens in exchange for “tuition and fees.”

Prosecutors said that in Su’s petition for approval, she made material false representations to the Department of Homeland Security about Tri-Valley University’s admission requirements, graduation requirements, administrators, instructors, class transferability, and intent to comply with federal regulations.

During the trial, prosecutors said, three purported Tri-Valley University professors testified that they never authorized Su to use their credentials in connection with the university and multiple employees testified that the school had no requirements for admission or graduation and she routinely instructed her staff to fabricate transcripts.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Su admitted and maintained student aliens in exchange for tuition and other payments.

Prosecutors said one of Su’s convictions was for harboring two Tri-Valley University student-employees to help her in making the false representations to the Student and Exchange Visitors System, which the U.S. government uses to monitor student visas.

One of the harbored student employees testified that Su asked him to paint her house and to move furniture, prosecutors said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Su made nearly $6 million through her operation of Tri-Valley University and engaged in seven money laundering transactions using proceeds to purchase commercial real estate, a Mercedes Benz and multiple residences, including a mansion on the Ruby Hill Golf Club in Pleasanton, each in her name.

Prosecutors said authorities began investigating Su in May 2010 after they received a tip.

Erik Babcock, Su’s attorney, couldn’t be reached for comment today.

Su’s sentencing is June 20.

(Copyright 2014 Bay City News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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