Man gets 4 years in immigration scam

ATLANTA - A Lawrenceville man who pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to defraud the United States was sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison Monday.

Songwoo Shim, 48, submitted a fraudulent I-17 petition, which requests that non-immigrant students be approved to attend school, to the Department of Homeland Security in July 2006.

Based on the fraudulent application, his English language school - Humana Language Learning Center in Duluth - was granted Student and Exchange Visitor Program-approved status. Officials said the school was used as a front when 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.

The "vast majority" of enrolled students never attended a class, officials said.

"Immigration fraud poses a serious threat to national security and public safety," said Special Agent Kenneth Smith of Atlanta's Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. "It creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to enter and remain in the United States."

Shim's co-defendant, In Young Park, 36, of Duluth, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years, three months in prison. Authorities said Park is not a United States citizen and will be turned over to immigration authorities when she is released.

Shim, who faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, will be supervised for three years after his release and was ordered to forfeit $24,000 seized by authorities.