PITTSBURGH - A federal judge in Pennsylvania on Wednesday ordered a Chinese national to be deported for his role in a testing scam in which clients paid imposters to take standardized tests to win admission to elite US universities.
Biyuan Li, 25, who lived in Boston and had pleaded guilty to the scheme, was sentenced to five years probation and ordered out of the US immediately.
Li helped create a fake passport for co-conspirator Han Tong, 24, a Chinese national who lived in Pittsburgh, so that Tong could take a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for him, prosecutors said.
Tong, the lead defendant among more than a dozen in the case, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to one count of conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud and one count of making and using forged passports. Prosecutors said he helped to arrange at least 10 fraudulent tests and obtained seven fake passports.
Accused members of the ring used the counterfeit Chinese passports to take exams, pretending to be the person who was applying to top universities, prosecutors said.
Li submitted his fraudulent scores in 2014 to graduate schools at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Cornell University, Brown University and Carnegie Mellon University, prosecutors said.
Tong used fake scores he obtained through the service to gain admission to the University of Pittsburgh and once in Pittsburgh, prosecutors said he helped the overseas operation conduct business and ran side jobs on his own.
Between 2011 and 2015, mainly in western Pennsylvania, paid imposters organised by an overseas partner through Tong took the SAT, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and the GRE under false names, according to federal prosecutors.
Li told authorities he paid nearly $6,000 (S$8,200) to someone based in China for the test-taking service.
Both the test-takers and the people they claimed to be were charged.
Li was to be sentenced on Oct. 30, but he requested expedited processing, which took place on Wednesday in US District Court in Pittsburgh.
Eight other people pleaded not guilty last month to charges stemming from the scam.
Tong will be sentenced on Nov. 12, and faces a maximum penalty of 55 years in prison and a $1 million fine, a prosecutor said. Neither his lawyer nor Li's lawyer were available for comment.