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Man sentenced in acceptance letter scam against Indian international students

A man has been sentenced to three years behind bars after pleading guilty to defrauding apiring Indian international students by giving them fake acceptance letters to study in Canada.
FILE – A gavel sits on a desk in Ottawa, Wednesday February 13, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

A man has been sentenced to three years behind bars after pleading guilty to defrauding aspiring Indian international students by giving them fake acceptance letters to study in Canada. 

Brijesh Mishra will serve 19 months behind bars after factoring in time already served since being taken into custody. He was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency at the U.S.-Canada border in June 2023 when trying to re-enter the country after his visitor visa had expired and was revoked due to his arrest warrants.

He has since been in custody at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre in Maple Ridge.

Mishra faced five charges that included misrepresenting facts to induce error or counsel/communicate for immigration to Canada. Four of those were connected to his immigration agency in Jalandhar, India, while one count was for overstaying his welcome in Surrey. 

CBSA linked him to providing numerous fraudulent university acceptance letters to prospective students between 2016 and 2020.  

The court heard that in 2019 Mishra opened his immigration agency, called Education Migration Services, after working for other immigration consultant agencies since 2016. Crown counsel told the courts that he was not authorized to provide immigration consultancy to people in Amritsar and Jalandhar in Punjab – and that only licensed lawyers and consultants are able to charge a fee for this type of work. 

Prosecutors argued that Mishra collected university tuition fees, as well as IRCC and visa fees from students; usually in cash with no receipts. He then provided them with fake admission letters to Canadian universities, along with fraudulent documents included in a completed visa package for them.

When the students arrived in Canada and tried to enrol, they were not admitted to class. When following up with Mishra, he would simply advise them to enrol in a different university or wait for the next semester to join the current class. In some cases, he helped them re-enrol and partially refund a portion of the tuition fee.

It was in March 2023 that CBSA caught students who had used Mishra’s fraudulent letters while trying to secure permanent residency.

Some were ordered to leave Canada while those who had genuine intent to study in Canada were granted a three-year temporary resident permit as CBSA continued its investigation. 

The court heard that investigators found a pattern in the stories of nine students. This included evidence, such as a referral to Mishra’s consultancy agency through a trusted family member, as well as similarities that each applicant had Mishra complete their university applications.

During sentencing, a lawyer representing Mishra said that his wife and four-year-old son was forced to move after receiving death threats from aggrieved families in Jalandhar.

Mishra's council also said that his post-deportation return in India will be met with grave challenges, considering the national warrants against him. The Indian Penal code will charge him with six counts for which the sentence ranges from three years to life imprisonment.

During his sentencing hearing, Mishra addressed Justice Susan Sangha after pleading guilty to three of the five charges.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know how bad the consequences would be for my family. I cannot change the past, but I can make sure I don’t do it in the future,” he said.

In her decision, Sangha noted that Mishra’s actions could cause additional ramifications, including increased racism toward the South Asian community in Canada, and that his breach of trust undermines public trust in Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

She acknowledged the impact on his family and the legal journey he still has to face in India.