Former Pitt international student cheats, faces deportation

By Lauren Rosenblatt / News Editor

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Pitt alum Han Tong was sentenced on Monday to three years probation and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after a Western Pennsylvania district court determined he took part in a scheme to cheat on college entrance exams.

U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti sentenced Tong Monday after he, along with 14 other Chinese individuals, used counterfeit passports to take fraudulent college entrance exams for other students, like the Scholastic Aptitude Test, the Graduate Record Examination and the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

Tong, who graduated from Pitt in 2011 and used a fraudulent exam to guarantee his admission, now runs the risk of being deported.

The 15 conspirators, who were indicted in May 2015, made and sent counterfeit Chinese passports to the United States where imposters used them to trick administrators into thinking they were the conspirators. From 2011 to 2015, the conspirators used this system to take fraudulent college and graduate school entrance exams, the majority of which were in Western Pennsylvania, according to a press release from the Department of Justice.

The defendants were indicted with conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, mail fraud and wire fraud. Tong, who was considered an organizer or leader in criminal activity, was charged with conspiracy, three counts of making and using forged passports, two counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud. His case involved seven counterfeit passports.

According to court documents, Tong did not have any other criminal history.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will decide whether or not he will be deported, and his probation will be enacted if he is not deported immediately, according to James Kitchen, an assistant attorney for the US.

According to Kitchen, most of the defendants involved in the test-taking scheme have already been sentenced and deported. Now that Tong has been sentenced, Gong Zhang is the only defendant who has not received the same sentence, though he has plead guilty and been convicted. Kitchen said they are just waiting for him to go “through the system.”

Tong’s attorney, James Brink, said on Tuesday he could not comment on the case.

At Pitt, if the University is informed of misconduct on entrance exams, they will revoke admission, according to University spokesperson Joe Miksch. Before submitting an application, Miksch said all undergraduate applicants are informed that they will be asked to “verify the completeness and accuracy of each component of [their] application with [their] online signature.” Besides Tong himself, it’s unclear if any other Pitt students were admitted through the scam, Miksch said.

At the time of their indictment, U.S. attorney David J. Hickton said the defendants were not only securing fraudulent admission to American institutions but also bypassing certain student visa requirements.The case, he said in the press release, established that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will “protect the integrity of our passport and visa process, as well as safeguard the national asset of our higher education system.”

The most recent prosecution “underscores the need to assure that admission to the United States and its educational institutions is honestly and fairly obtained,” acting U.S. attorney Soo C. Song said through a spokesperson.

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