ICE Nabs Flight School For Visa Fraud

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Two individuals who operated a San Diego-area flight school entered guilty pleas last week to charges that they issued false visa documents that allowed at least 53 foreign students to enter the country illegally for flight training. Andrew Burr and Christopher Watson faced misdemeanor charges stemming from a two-year U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) probe that also found the men's flight school illegally hired 11 foreign students as flight instructors between 2001 and 2008. "The actions by the defendants in this case not only undermined the integrity of our nation's legal immigration system, they also posed a significant national security risk," lead investigator Joe Garcia said. According to ICE investigators, even though the FAA had revoked the school's certification to train commercial pilots, school officials issued visa documents for more than 100 foreign students.

Burr and Watson so far have earned probation and fines, but more sentencing for their corporation is ahead. A judge sentenced the school's former owners to five years probation. Burr and Watson have agreed to abstain from participation in any educational institution that services or employs illegal workers, or engages in flight training. They have already been ordered to "forfeit $250,000 from proceeds that represent the company's profits," according to ICE, which also said "the corporation will be sentenced on the felony visa fraud charges, June 21."