Man pleads guilty to duping prospective international students with fake acceptance letters

Dressed in a red jumpsuit, Brijesh Mishra stood inside a Vancouver courtroom and apologized for a slew of Canadian immigration offences.

Mishra, 37, was arrested after a Canadian Border Services Agency investigation tied him to dozens of fraudulent acceptance letters for Canadian colleges and universities that were provided to prospective international students from India between 2016 and 2020.

On Wednesday, Mishra pleaded guilty to three charges related to Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, including misrepresentation and communicating false information.

“I’m sorry,” he told the courtroom. “I cannot change the past, but I can make sure I do not do it again in the future.”

Mishra was arrested in Surrey, B.C., in June 2023. He entered Canada on a tourist visa, which was expired at the time of his arrest.

Crown and defence lawyers issued a joint sentencing submission asking for three years in prison, to which the judge agreed was sufficient.

Mishra’s time in custody since his 2023 arrest counts as time served, meaning he will serve an additional 19 months.

“I would say he did show genuine remorse,” said Gagan Nahal, Mishra’s defence lawyer. “The pleas that were entered today were clearly a demonstration of his remorse because he did have a right to run a trial in this.”

Nahal said 12 victims came forward during the course of the CBSA’s investigation.

After serving his sentence in Canada, Mishra is expected to be deported to India where he faces further criminal charges, including a human smuggling offence under the Punjab Travel Act. The maximum penalty for that offence is death.

No victims or their family members were present in the courtroom. Federal Crown prosecutor Molly Greene declined to comment.

Dozens of international students protested outside the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto on March 30 to fight for their stay in Canada.
Dozens of international students protested outside the Immigration and Refugee Board in Toronto on March 30, 2023 to fight for their stay in Canada. (Satbir Singh Aulakh/CBC)

A common pattern

In an agreed statement of facts between Crown and defence, Greene outlined a common pattern based on victim testimony.

Greene said prospective students typically came from a modest background in the Indian state of Punjab with the desire to study abroad in Canada and were referred to Mishra by family or friends.

Mishra would advise them to apply to multiple schools to ensure they were accepted. Prospective students would provide him with passport information, transcripts and English language test results. They did not apply to any schools themselves.

Greene said prospective students would then be informed that they were accepted into a school, and would collect a letter of acceptance from Mishra’s office.

He took fees for exchange for services, including application fees, tuition costs, immigration fees and consulting fees. Families would usually pay in cash without receipts.

Upon arrival in Canada, prospective students would try to enrol in classes at the school only to find out they weren’t admitted.

When they would contact Mishra, his responses would vary. In some cases, assisting enrolment in another institution, in other cases avoiding the victims and their families altogether.

Greene said witnesses would make the best of a bad situation by applying to alternate schools and waiting for upcoming semesters to begin.

Mishra and his lawyers said his family remains in India, and has been harassed by the family members of his alleged victims.

The CBSA said a task force is still in the midst of locating all possible victims of Mishra and other fraudsters, but will work to keep them in Canada.

“Our focus will continue to be on helping individuals assessed as genuine students as part of the task force so they can complete their studies in Canada,” it said in a statement released last year.


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