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The scummy business of recruiting in Africa

(West Virginia’s Blessing Ejiofor was told she’d be attending a school in North Carolina upon leaving her native Nigeria, but was instead brought to a high school in New Jersey.)

Last night, 60 minutes ran a piece on the shady, under-the-table business of funneling African teenagers to American high school basketball teams, often resulting in visa nightmares, gross mistreatment, overcrowded living conditions and a sham education. 

  • The operation: A middleman seeking to make connections in the lucrative underground college recruiting world will sell the American dream to a naive teenager in Africa, supplying him or her with an I-20 (a “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status”) to a fraudulent school, often bringing the person to a completely different school. 

  • An example: Blessing Ejiofor, from Nigeria, was promised a spot in the Evelyn Mack Academy in Charlotte. When Ejiofor landed in the U.S., she was brought instead to a high school in Paterson, N.J. She eventually returned to Nigeria and, now, somewhat miraculously, plays and starts for West Virginia’s basketball team.

(The Evelyn Mack Academy was found to have given out 75 bogus I-20s. Its founder, Evelyn Mack, is currently in federal prison.) Tacko Fall was another victim. He bounced from Texas to Tennessee to Georgia to Florida after coming to America from Senegal at 16. Fall’s story worked out, of course. More concerning is the vast majority of cases that don't.

“There's been many times where I feel like some people have been taken advantage of where they bring them here then that's it,” Fall told 60 Minutes. “Then they're just left for their own. And if things don't work out, then it's -- they -- they are pretty much screwed.”


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