NEW YORK–Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria and Anita Chabria who were senior executives of privately owned for-profit schools, have been sentenced in Manhattan federal court for their roles in a student financial aid fraud scheme in which they defrauded the United States Department of Education of $1 million in education grant funds, and in a student visa fraud scheme that generated $7.44 million in illegal revenues.
United States District Judge J. Paul Oetken sentenced Hiranandaney and Lalit Chabria to one year and one day in prison and Anita Chabria to six months of home confinement. Judge Oetken also ordered these three former executives to forfeit $7.44 million for the student visa fraud and to pay $1 million in restitution for the student financial aid fraud.
These former executives were arrested in May 2014, along with co-defendants Samir Hiranandaney and Seema Shah, following a long-term investigation by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations , the United States Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service , and the United States Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General .
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Bharara stated: “Suresh Hiranandaney, Lalit Chabria, and Anita Chabria exploited our nation’s financial aid and foreign student visa programs, engaging in a long-running fraud scheme that generated millions of dollars. The defendants greedily took advantage of programs meant to help people get a higher education, and in the process, committed federal crimes.”
According to the Complaint and Indictment, sentencing submissions and other publicly filed court documents, and statements made at public court proceedings in this case, including yesterday’s sentencings:
HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, and ANITA CHABRIA were associated with the Micropower Career Institute (“MCI”), a for-profit school with five campuses in New York and New Jersey, or the Institute for Health Education (“IHE”), a for-profit school located in New Jersey, both of which offered vocational, language, and other classes to, among others, domestic students whose tuition was partially covered by Department of Education Department financial aid, and foreign students who were allowed to stay in this country on student visas requiring that they pursue full courses of study at bona fide educational institutions. Hiranandaney was MCI’s president; his brother-in-law, LALIT CHABRIA, was MCI’s chief executive officer and IHE’s president; and ANITA CHABRIA, the sister of HIRANANDANEY and wife of LALIT CHABRIA, was MCI’s vice president and the director of MCI’s Mineola Campus in Mineola, New York.
HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, and ANITA CHABRIA defrauded the Education Department of $1,000,000 of educational grant money – funds that the Education Department had paid to MCI for the purpose of covering tuition for domestic students to attend classes at MCI. As part of this fraud, they falsified and manipulated documents to hide MCI’s failure to timely return financial aid money received by MCI for domestic students who had dropped out of MCI.
Similarly, HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, and ANITA CHABRIA made $7,440,000 in illicit profits by defrauding immigration authorities. In this scheme, they concealed that MCI and IHE were collecting millions of dollars in tuition revenues from foreign students who were not attending courses as required to stay in the United States on student visas. HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, ANITA CHABRIA, and others fraudulently portrayed MCI and IHE to immigration authorities as legitimate institutes of higher learning where foreign students carried full course loads. In reality, the majority of foreign students at MCI and IHE did not attend the required number of classes. HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, and ANITA CHABRIA failed to report this to immigration authorities, as required, while MCI and IHE continued to collect millions of dollars in tuition from foreign students with delinquent attendance. When a campus of MCI came under regulatory scrutiny, HIRANANDANEY, LALIT CHABRIA, ANITA CHABRIA, and others transferred foreign students with delinquent attendance to affiliated schools (such as another MCI campus or IHE) that were not under scrutiny.
In addition to their prison and home confinement sentences, HIRANANDANEY, 61, of Dix Hills, New York, and LALIT CHABRIA, 54, and ANITA CHABRIA, 50, both of Old Bethpage, New York, were ordered to forfeit $7,440,000 to the United States Government from the proceeds of their student visa fraud, and pay $1,000,000 in restitution to United States Department of Education for losses from their student financial aid fraud.
The remaining defendants, Samir Hiranandaney and Seema Shah, are scheduled to be sentenced later this year before Judge Oetken.