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Press Release

Two Defendants Plead Guilty to Conspiracy to Use Forged Passports and Identification Cards in Widespread English Proficiency Exam Scheme Benefiting Chinese Nationals Seeking Student Visas

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON – Yixin Ren, 36, of Brooklyn, NY, and Yishan Lin, 35, of Queens, NY, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Timothy J. Kelly to one count of conspiracy to use false, forged, and counterfeited documents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, in connection with a scheme where Chinese nationals fraudulently obtained student visas by hiring people with fake Chinese passports to take an English proficiency test in their names. 

            The United States requires foreign citizens who wish to enter the United States on a temporary basis to study at a college or university to first obtain an F-1 student visa. To obtain a student visa, foreign citizens must first apply to study at a school that has been authorized by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to enroll foreign students. In the United States, many SEVP-certified schools require foreign citizens whose first language is not English to certify proficiency in English by achieving a particular score on the TOEFL or other English proficiency examination.

            When the foreign national goes to a TOEFL testing location, the test taker must present an original, non-expired, government-issued identification document recognized by their home country. As described in the indictment and the plea agreement, the defendants conspired to use counterfeit People’s Republic of China passports and national identification cards to impersonate at least 50 different Chinese nationals at various TOEFL testing locations internationally, including in the District of Columbia.

            The announcement was made by Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin for the District of Columbia, and Special Agent in Charge Raymond Villanueva of the HSI Washington Field Office.

            The charge of conspiracy to use false, forged, and counterfeited documents carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in prison. Sentencing has been scheduled before the Honorable Timothy J. Kelly on December 11, 2020.

            This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations’ Washington Field Office, with assistance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Fraud Detection National Security Section and the U.S. Treasury Office of the Inspector General. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the TOEFL exam, has also provided assistance during the investigation.

            This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jessi Camille Brooks of the National Security Section, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist Jorge Casillas.  Special thanks go to former Assistant United States Attorney Jeff Pearlman and former Special Assistant United States Attorney Elizabeth Dewar.

Updated September 24, 2020

National Security
Press Release Number: 20-113