The U.S. Department of Justice said on Thursday that it has charged fifteen Chinese nationals with paying impostors to take college entrance exams, including the SAT. The illegal test takers gained acceptance to elite American colleges and universities as a result of the scheme.
Genius students were paid up to $600 each time they used counterfeit Chinese passports to trick testing facilities into thinking they were the student who would apply to college with the test score, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
The scheme was perpetrated during 2011 and 2015, mainly in western Pennsylvania.
Authorities are charging both the test takers and the people they claimed to be.
U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania David Hickton said students snuck into what are "among our finest educational institutions."
Hickton would not name the specific schools, but said that they are located across the United States.
A more serious concern is that the counterfeit Chinese passports were used to cheat student visa requirements. Expired student visas allowed the 9/11 hijackers to remain in the country and learn to fly the ill-fated planes that hit the twin towers.
"These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation's immigration system," said John Kelleghan, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations of Philadelphia.
The students face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or both for each count of wire and mail fraud. Conspiracy charges carry an additional five-year maximum sentence.