Chinese Nationals Indicted in Alleged U.S. Test-Taking Scheme

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Fifteen Chinese citizens living in the United States reportedly conspired to take college entrance exams for others so they could obtain student visas, according to the Associated Press. The frauds allegedly took standardized exams including the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

The Test-Taking Conspiracy.

According to BBC News, the scheme reportedly took place between 2011 and 2015, mainly in western Pennsylvania. Six individuals named in the indictment were identified as students who supposedly paid up to $6,000 to have other individuals, also charged, take the tests. The test-takers purportedly “impersonated others, and those others were able to use the fraudulent test scores to obtain F1 visas,” U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton told the Associated Press. The individuals allegedly used fake passports that contained the students’ personal information, but a picture of the test-taker substituted for the student.

Testing Services Cooperate with the Investigation.

Princeton, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service and the New York-based College Board are cooperating with the investigation, according to Hickton. “Their actions are 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,” College Board vice president Stacy Caldwell told the Associated Press. Educational Testing Service administers the SAT, GRE, and TOEFL exams, while the College Board oversees SAT registration.

Offenders Expected to Receive More Than Just a Slap on the Wrist.

The charges against the suspects include conspiracy, counterfeiting passports, mail and wire fraud, BBC News reported. The defendants, both male and female ranging in age from 19 to 26, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. According to BBC’s report, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations of Philadelphia John Kelleghan believes “these students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system.”

Due to the ongoing investigation, a final number has not yet been released documenting an exact number of suspects believed to be involved in the ruse.

Is There Similar Activity Going On in Medical Testing for NBME, USMLE or ECFMG Administered Tests?

There have been somewhat similar alleged test-taking fraudulent activities involving medical testing. From time to time we are consulted by individuals who have been caught using fraudulent documents to attempt to take the USMLE Step exams. We are also aware of allegations that there have been compromises of actual examinations involving foreign nationals. For example, see the blog I wrote on the Optima scandal.

On the whole, the NBME, USMLE, and ECFMG and their testing centers do an excellent job in screening out fraudulent test takers. It would be foolish for anyone who ever hoped to be a practicing physician to try to perpetrate a fraud in taking these tests.


What are your thoughts on these allegations? Do you feel standardized testing should be monitored more heavily to prevent test-taking fraud from occurring? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

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“Chinese Nationals Accused of Taking SATs for Others.” BBC News. (May 28 2015). From:

Mandak, Joe. “Feds Indict 15 Chinese in Alleged College Test-Taking Scheme.” The Associated Press. (May 28, 2015). From:

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M. is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone (407) 331-6620.

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