Four Chinese Nationals Arrested and Charged in Connection with College Admissions Exam Scam

Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office

District of Massachusetts


Thursday, May 4, 2017
Students Arrested Today in Massachusetts, Arizona and New Jersey on Immigration-Related Charges
BOSTON – Yue Wang, 25, Shikun Zhang, 24, Leyi Huang, 21, and Xiaomeng Cheng, 21, all in the United States on F-1 non-immigrant student visas, were arrested today on charges of conspiracies to defraud the United States.


The conspiracies involved Wang, a current student at the Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass., agreeing to sit for the TOEFL exam in the place of Zhang, Huang, and Cheng. The TOEFL exam is an English language test recognized by more than 9,000 colleges, universities, and agencies in more than 130 countries. It is also used by the United States government in issuing, extending, or renewing F-1 student visas.


After Wang took the TOEFL exam in her co-conspirators places, her scores were allegedly used by the co-conspirators to apply for admission to various universities in the United States. Zhang used this fraudulently acquired TOEFL score to gain admission to Northeastern University in Boston, Mass.; Huang fraudulently used the TOEFL score to gain admission to Penn State University in Erie, Pa.; and Cheng used the fraudulently acquired TOEFL score to gain admission to Arizona State University. In each case, the United States Department of State issued the student an F-1 non-immigrant student visa based on their admittance to these educational institutions.


“Illegal schemes to circumvent the TOEFL exam jeopardize both academic integrity and our country’s student visa program,” said William B. Weinreb, Acting U.S Attorney. “The TOEFL exam ensures that international students have adequate English language skills to succeed in higher education programs in the United States. It also helps maintain the security of our borders and immigration system. By effectively purchasing passing scores, they violated the rules and regulations of the exam, taking spots at US colleges and universities that could have gone to others.”


“These schemes not only undermine the integrity of the academic institutions, they also undermine our nation’s immigration system,” said Matthew Etre, Special Agent in Charge of HSI in Boston. “HSI will continue to protect the nation’s immigration system by working with our federal law enforcement partners and our partners in academia to ensure that those involved in these scams are held accountable.”


The charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States provides for a sentence of no greater than 5 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The defendants are subject to deportation after conviction and serving any sentence imposed. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.