Third Chinese citizen pleads guilty in U.S. test scam

Guilty pleas continue to roll in from Chinese citizens accused of participating in an elaborate scheme to have proxies take college entrance exams in the U.S.

The Associated Press reported last week that Yunlin Sun, a Chinese citizen living in Pennsylvania, became the third person out of 15 that were indicted in May to plead guilty to her role in the conspiracy, which was allegedly coordinated through a Chinese Internet forum. Two other defendants had previously confessed to their own roles in the scam last month.

Sun admitted that on separate occasions in late 2013, she took the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) on behalf of two other Chinese women, each of whom may have paid as much as $6,000 for the service.

The TOEFL test is administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS), the same company that conducts other common exams including the GRE and SAT, and is a widely-recognized benchmark for determining English-language proficiency among American colleges and universities.

Sun was allegedly able to take the tests by using phony Chinese passports for identification, aided by fellow Pittsburgh resident Han Tong, who pleaded guilty last week to playing a leading role in arranging the fraudulent tests.

According to Reuters, Tong confessed to engaging with a China-based test-taking company to acquire false credentials in order to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for Biyuan Li, who became the first co-conspirator to plead guilty in mid-July.

According to prosecutors, Tong continued to work with the company through an Internet forum called QQ Chat to connect students with proxies, arranging at least 10 fraudulent tests and obtaining seven fake passports between 2011 and 2015.

A spokesperson for ETS told Campus Reform that the company is not able to comment on its current or anticipated response to the apparently well-organized scamming, as it remains an ongoing issue, but did reference the organization’s existing security measures for both the TOEFL and the GRE.

The only practice that appears directly relevant to the case at hand involves the training of test center administrators, which covers such topics as identification requirements and check-in procedures, but it remains unclear whether the proxy test-takers were able to pull off their deception due to inadequate training, the high quality of their forgeries, administrators’ unfamiliarity with Chinese passports, or some other factor.

ETS does acknowledge that, “even with the most stringent security prevention measures in place, fraudulent activity can occur,” and pledges to “[work] with national law enforcement agencies to prosecute professional impersonation rings.”

The company also conducts its own independent investigations when it has reason to believe that test fraud has occurred, even employing handwriting and voice analysis if necessary, but relies on “reported incidents of misconduct” to trigger those investigations, and so could have difficulty identifying test fraud in cases where both parties are complicit.

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