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Virginia woman sentenced to 6 years in prison for student visa scam

December 13, 2011 (1 min read)

"A Virginia woman was sentenced to 6 years in prison Friday after pleading guilty in June to two counts of mail and wire fraud following an investigation by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Department of Homeland Security-Office of the Inspector General.

Mary Ann Smith, 42, was charged with operating a business in Virginia that purported to assist individuals in obtaining student visas for an ongoing series of fees. Two of Smith's thirty-four identified victims are residents of Memphis. Smith had contacted the Memphis area victims in February 2009 via email describing a nonexistent student visa program in which the U.S. government supposedly exchanged students with foreign countries on a one-for-one basis. Smith charged her victims an initial fee of approximately $6,500 per student, and later, after assuring her victims that the visas were being processed, sought fees to cover the students' airline tickets.

Subsequently, she sought fees from the victims for various types of insurance, including "swine flu insurance." The scheme involved the use of false documents that appeared to originate from the U.S. Secretary of State and from United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). The scheme also used a spoofing service that enabled Smith to call her victims and make it appear as if she was calling from USCIS." - ICE, Dec. 9, 2011.