A Fullerton pastor was scheduled to make his first appearance this afternoon before a federal magistrate in Santa Ana on charges that his religious school was just a front to sell student visas.
Samuel Chai Cho Oh, 65, the owner of California Union University, surrendered to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Tuesday, according to ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice.
Oh, who is also the pastor of the Union Church on the university's campus, is accused in a criminal complaint of conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
Oh allegedly collected $40,000 to $50,000 monthly from people pretending to be foreign students, according to court papers. The so-called students were given forms that allowed them to go to a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad and apply for a student visa, Kice said.
The university's federal certification was revoked in October, but until then, the school was authorized to accept foreign students pursuing religious and biblical studies as well as learning English as a second language and Oriental medicine, Kice said.
During their 10-month investigation, ICE agents arrested and questioned more than 30 foreign nationals who claimed they paid Oh anywhere from $600 to more than $10,000 for the documents allowing them to get student visas and sometimes bogus degrees, Kice said.
The university's students told agents they never attended class nor saw any teachers or other students on campus, Kice said. One man said he received a bachelor's degree in education and detailed to agents how Oh allegedly staged a phony graduation ceremony on campus last May, Kice said.
Federal agents seized computers and more than 300 student files from the university in October, Kice said. The agency has also seized more than $400,000 in two separate bank accounts maintained by Oh and an associate, she added.
The Korean-born Oh, a naturalized U.S. citizen, accepted mostly Korean students, but the university also had foreign nationals from more than 20 countries, Kice said.
Oh faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted, Kice said.