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Five arrested in TOEFL cheating scheme to procure student visas for Chinese nationals

The scheme helped Chinese nationals gain U.S. visas to attend many highly selective universities, including UCLA. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Hedy Wang

March 12, 2019 11:46 p.m.

This post was updated March 13 at 5:53 p.m.

A UCLA alumnus was arrested by federal authorities Tuesday for involvement in a scheme that helped Chinese nationals obtain student visas by cheating on their English proficiency tests.

The scheme was allegedly led by Liu Cai, a 23-year-old who entered the United States on a student visa to attend UCLA, according to the Los Angeles Times. Cai graduated from UCLA in spring 2017, said UCLA spokesperson Ricardo Vazquez.

Cai and four other California residents were arrested after a federal grand jury indicted them Friday on 26 counts for charges including conspiring to use false passports, using false passports and aggravated identity theft, according to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release.

The defendants allegedly used fake Chinese passports to impersonate Chinese nationals and take the Test of English as a Foreign Language exam, according to the release. Cai has allegedly taken at least five TOEFL exams, and paid for and registered 14 Chinese nationals for the exam from 2015 to 2016, according to the indictment.

The scheme helped more than 40 people obtain admission to highly selective universities, including UCLA, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Foreign nationals who wish to study at a U.S. college or university must obtain an F-1 student visa after first applying to a school approved by the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Many of these schools require foreign nationals whose first language is not English to achieve a certain score on the TOEFL to demonstrate their English proficiency, according to the release.

This arrest comes on the same day federal authorities charged UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo for involvement in a bribery scheme that helped students gain admission to universities as student-athletes despite never having played their sport competitively. The scheme, though unrelated, involved parents paying a third-party college preparation consultant about $25 million in total between 2011 and February to facilitate cheating on their children’s college admissions exams.

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Hedy Wang | Enterprise editor
Wang is the Enterprise editor. She was the News editor last year and an assistant News editor for the Features & Student Life beat the year before that. She is a fourth-year economics and communications student.
Wang is the Enterprise editor. She was the News editor last year and an assistant News editor for the Features & Student Life beat the year before that. She is a fourth-year economics and communications student.
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