Federal prosecutors have charged 15 Chinese citizens with conspiring to take college entrance exams on behalf of others and illegally obtaining student visas.
Details of the conspiracy
Prosecutors allege that between 2011 and 2015 the defendants conspired to defraud the Education Testing Service (ETS) and College Board by having imposters take exams such as the SAT and GRE.
SAT cheating comes stateside with apparent leak of May 2 exam
In an indictment unsealed Thursday, prosecutors named six students who paid as much as $6,000 to have a test taken on their behalf. An additional five Chinese citizens were named as test takers, while the roles of four additional people remained unclear. The charges include conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, and wire fraud.
Han Tong, the lead defendant, flew to California to take the SAT for another person. John Kelleghan, the lead Homeland Security Investigations of Philadelphia agent on the case, said in a statement, "These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation's immigration system."
Specifically, test-takers "impersonated others, and those others were able to use the fraudulent test scores to obtain F1 visas," says U.S. Attorney David Hickton. Students who wished to have another person take a test on their behalf used their passports to create fake documents with the imposter's face. Hickton says he believes the scheme extends beyond the 15 people charged Thursday.
The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, which opposes the misuse of standardized tests, argued the charges raise larger questions for the testing industry. "Since this scam worked with passports, it seems plausible that fake U.S. driver's licenses or other identification cards could also be used for registration," says Bob Schaeffer, the public education director for the organization.
Both ETS and College Board released statements saying they were cooperating with authorities and condemning the conspiracy. The investigation is "consistent with the College Board's commitment to identify and stop illegal activity that undermines the integrity of our exams and the hard work of students around the world," said Stacy Caldwell, a College Board vice president (Bidgood, New York Times, 5/28; Mandak, AP/ABC News, 5/28; CBS News, 5/28; AP/Wall Street Journal, 5/28).
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