Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security search the College Prep Academy and The Korea Times building on Wednesday off Chattahoochee Trace in Duluth.
DULUTH -- The leader of a Duluth school for immigrants is alleged to have used his institution to bring illegal aliens into the country and issue them fraudulent student visas -- all the while knowing more than half would simply go to work, some as prostitutes.
Officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security swarmed the Chattahoochee Trace home of College Prep Academy Wednesday morning, pulling accounting files from the freestanding brick building just off Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. The search came a week after the school's 52-year-old owner, Dong Seok Yi, was indicted alongside three associates.
According to information released late Wednesday by the U.S. Attorney's Atlanta office, College Prep Academy was granted permission to enroll foreign-born students in 2009, meaning it could issue I-20 forms to essentially allow those students to stay in the United States (those forms enable students to get F-1 student visas and stay while they are in school).
Once Yi obtained certification, though, officials said "he and his co-defendants began facilitating the issuance of F-1 student visas to foreign-born individuals who were not entitled to, or eligible for, the visas."
College Prep Academy -- described on its Facebook page as "an innovative college preparatory institution ... that offers a variety of (English as a second language) programs to students from around the world" -- had as many as 100 students enrolled.
Less than half, authorities said, were actually attending classes.
"Yi allegedly conspired with Korean bar owners to enroll females into the school with the understanding that the females would not attend classes as required but would instead work as prostitutes in the bars," a brief from U.S. Attorney's Atlanta office said.
"Many (students) simply began living and working in the country after obtaining a student visa from College Prep Academy," it added.
Yi and the school reportedly charged thousands of dollars for quarterly tuition payments.
Gwinnett County tax records list the building raided Wednesday as being owned by College Prep USA LLC, the principal address of which, according to the Secretary of State, is 4250 River Green Parkway, Unit C in Duluth -- an office of Hankyore News, the owner of the Korea Times Atlanta, a Korean-language newspaper with outlets across the United States and Canada.
Yi owns the Korea Times Atlanta. The newspaper's distinctive logo, a flag with green and white triangles, graced the front of the building where federal authorities searched Wednesday.
Attempts to reach Yi, the Korea Times and College Prep Academy were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Three others were also indicted in the case, including Sook An Kil, the school's academic coordinator, and Chang Seon Song, its academic director. A third suspect, Sang Houn Kim of Diamond Bar, Calif., was indicted for his alleged role of manufacturing false identification documents for College Prep students, charging them thousands for passports, school transcripts, bank statements and family registries to help them support their visas.
The federal indictment charges one count of conspiracy and eight counts of making false statements in immigration documents. Each of the latter charges carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
-- Dong Seok Yi, 52, of Duluth, president and CEO of College Prep Academy, owner of Korea Times Atlanta
-- Sook An Kil, 41, of Duluth, academic coordinator
-- Chang Seon Song, 51, of Suwanee, academic director
-- Sang Houn Kim, 53, of Diamond Bar, Calif., accused of manufacturing false documents