Judge orders Chinese student deported after guilty plea in exam scam

A federal judge on Thursday ordered a Chinese national to return to China after she pleaded guilty of defrauding the US government by having someone else take an English language exam on her behalf.

Shikun Zhang, 23, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the US government. US District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs sentenced Zhang to time served and ordered her to be immediately sent back to China.

The charges stem from an alleged scheme in 2015 in which Zhang allegedly paid another student to take an English proficiency exam on her behalf. Zhang was one of four teenagers arrested in May after a federal investigation.


She allegedly gave her passport and exam registration information to a coconspirator who took the TOEFL exam for her. Zhang then allegedly used the scores to be admitted to Northeastern University.

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The TOEFL exam is used by more than 9,000 colleges, universities, and agencies around the world. It is also used by the US government in issuing, extending or renewing F-1 student visas, prosecutors said.

Three other Chinese students were allegedly also involved in the scheme. Yue Wang pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Sept. 19 to time served and ordered immediately removed from the country, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office in Boston said Thursday. Xiaomeng Cheng pleaded guilty and was sentenced Aug. 30 to time served and also ordered immediately deported.

Leyi Huang was arraigned on Sept. 21 and is awaiting a hearing tentatively set for mid-November.

Laura Krantz can be reached at