A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania indicted 15 Chinese nationals on charges of conspiracy and fraud for using impostors to take standardized entrance exams for them at American colleges and universities, U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania announced on Thursday.
The defendants were charged with 35 counts of conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, mail fraud and wire fraud, according to the indictment.
Between 2011 and 2015, the Chinese nationals schemed to defraud the Education Testing Services and the College Board by having impostors take entrance exams, including the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), mainly in colleges and universities in western Pennsylvania, the indictment said.
They allegedly made counterfeit Chinese passports which were sent to the U.S. and used by the impostors to trick ETS administrators into believing they were the conspirators. The Chinese conspirators would use the imposters' test scores to get admission to U.S. institutions while bypassing F1 Visa requirements, the indictment said.
"This case establishes that we will protect the integrity of our passport and visa process, as well as safeguard the national asset of our higher education system from fraudulent access," Hickton said.
The indictment named Han Tong, Xi Fu, Xiaojin Guo, Yudong Zhang, Yue Zou, Biyuan Li aka "Jack Li," Jia Song, Ning Wei, Gong Zhang, Songling Peng, Siyuan Zhao and Yunlin Sun as conspirators, while three other names were sealed.
"These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation's immigration system," said John Kelleghan, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations of Philadelphia.
Wire and mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and/or a fine of $250,000. Counterfeiting fake passports carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine, and conspiracy carries five years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.