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9 students from Nepal indicted for fraud

By Katherine Wartell

Nine K-State students from Nepal were indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on federal charges of visa fraud.

The 15-page indictment alleges the students conspired to maintain their non-immigrant visas by falsely claiming they possessed the required funds to pursue their studies and support themselves and their dependents, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

All nine were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and at least one count of visa fraud.

Those named in the indictment are: Mahendra Thapa, 33, charged with one count of visa fraud, Khem Acharya, 41, charged with four counts of visa fraud; Raj Kumar Dani, 37, charged with three counts of visa fraud; Santosh Ghimire, 37, charged with one count of visa fraud; and, Lila Ballav Pandey, 41, charged with four counts of visa fraud.

Also named are: Laxman Pokhrel, 37, charged with two counts of visa fraud; Keshar Prasain, 38, charged with four counts of visa fraud; Govind Paneru, 32, charged with three counts of visa fraud; and, Narayan Chapagain, 43, charged with three counts of visa fraud.

The indictment alleges that beginning in the fall of 2008, the students obtained financial resources from other Nepalese students for the purpose of obtaining bank statements to support their false claims that each personally had the needed funds to maintain their visa.

As a part of their visa, the students are required to upload the information to an internet-based program that is monitored by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

According to the indictment, the accused placed anywhere from approximately $3,700 to $23,400, collected from other Nepalese students, in their accounts.

Grissom said that after obtaining a notarized bank letter, the nine students returned the funds to the other students.

The required funds are one part of the specific visa requirements, which also include showing they have a residence abroad and that they intend to depart from the United States upon completion of their studies. Officials would not comment on what alerted investigators to the alleged fraud.

According to the K-State website, the accused are working on their doctorates in subjects including physics, economics and chemistry.

If convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.

The Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security investigated.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway is prosecuting.

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