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Man pleads guilty to conspiracy charges

ATLANTA - A Lawrenceville man pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Prosecutors said 47-year-old Songwoo Shim used an English language school as a front for selling fraudulent immigration documents to "so-called students" who were not legally entitled to remain in the U.S.

"This defendant quickly pleaded guilty, and for good reason," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. "The investigation clearly showed that he fraudulently obtained approval from the Department of Homeland Security to operate an English-language school by submitting an application that contained false statements and that was supported by fraudulent documents."

In July 2006, after being granted Student and Exchange Visitor Program-approved status, Shim opened the Humana Language Learning Center in Duluth. That's when officials said he and others, acting at his direction, began helping foreign-born individuals fraudulently obtain student visas. Authorities said Shim and others charged the aliens thousands of dollars in "tuition" fees that were actually for providing false documents such as resumes, school transcripts, diplomas and financial plans and statements.

Special Agent Kenneth Smith of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said his agency strives to "protect the integrity" of the immigration system.

"Disrupting these types of operations is crucial to stopping dangerous criminals and even potential terrorists from fraudulently entering the U.S. and obscuring their identities," he said.

Shim faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing has been scheduled for Aug. 10 before U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell Jr.