A Florida language school helped illegally obtain student visas for foreign nationals who never went to class, violating laws enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks exposed weaknesses in the program, authorities said Thursday.
Eighty-one student visa holders purportedly studying at the Florida Language Institute have been arrested. None was on any federal watch list or linked to terrorism, U.S. authorities said, though investigators were checking their backgrounds.
“We don't know exactly what they were doing,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Sloman.
The school's owner, Lydia Menocal, 58, and employee Ofelia Macia, 75, allegedly made $2.4 million over the past three years from foreign nationals applying for U.S. student visas. It was not clear how much they charged each student for the paperwork, authorities said.
Menocal and Macia were charged with conspiring to commit an offense against the U.S., and Menocal faces other charges including falsifying immigration documents, according to a grand jury indictment.