U.S. Federal prosecutors have charged 15 Chinese nationals with fraud over a scheme where imposters using fake passports were paid to take university entrance exams.
Defendants both in the U.S. and China have been accused of involvement in the scheme. The charges include conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, wire fraud and mail fraud.
Prosecutors in Pittsburgh said between 2011 and 2015 a number of people used fake passports sent from China to the U.S. to take SAT and other exams for students aspiring to enter U.S. universities. Some went on to secure visas to stay in the U.S. on the back of the exam results. It is not known how many students entered U.S. universities through the scam.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: “The conspirators received the benefit of the impostor’s test scores on the SAT and other exams for use at American colleges, one of which is identified in the indictment as Northeastern University in Boston.”
The defendants, both male and female, are aged between 19 and 26, with many living in cities across the U.S. which are home to major universities. They are alleged to have fraudulently sat for the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) – a major university entrance exam in the US – as well as the Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Prosecutors say up to US$6,000 was paid to those taking the exams. The defendants could face up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to US$250,000 if convicted.
The U.S. is home to a massive Chinese student population. In the 2013-14 academic year more than quarter of a million Chinese students studied there, accounting for 31 percent of the total international student population.
(READ MORE: Pakistan detains owner of alleged ‘fake degree’ mill)