Chinese citizen pleads guilty to U.S. graduate school exam fraud

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Chinese citizen accused of posing as someone else to take a graduate school entrance exam on her behalf pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a criminal case that arose from U.S. prosecutors investigating international students who use imposters to gain admission to American universities.

Xinyan Wang, who was a student at Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to charges that she misused a passport and committed visa fraud by using counterfeit travel documents to take the exam.

Her plea centered on a single Graduate Record Exam (GRE) that prosecutors said Wang, 27, took on Oct. 20 in Boston using a counterfeit Chinese passport and a bogus visa in another person’s name that contained photos that resembled her.

But authorities in court papers said Wang had from July to August taken the GRE or the TOEFL, the English-language exam used to assess foreign applicants, on five prior occasions under assumed names.

She was arrested in November. Her case is similar to another one in which prosecutors said that students, unable to pass college entrance exams, hired imposters to take them in their place in order to apply for admission to American schools.

As China has become increasingly affluent, more Chinese students have been enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities, attracted by the prospect of a prestigious American education and good jobs.

The number of Chinese students studying in the United States in the 2016-17 academic year rose by 6.8 percent to 350,755, the Institute of International Education reported in November.

In May, federal prosecutors in Boston charged four women from China who they said sought to cheat on university and college entrance exams. Prosecutors said one of the women was paid to take the TOEFL. Three of the four women have pleaded guilty.

Wang is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Grant McCool