Federal immigration authorities said they arrested five people in California who were hired to use fake Chinese passports to take English proficiency tests so that foreign students could earn student visas. They are expected to be in court Tuesday.
A sixth person who has been charged is believed to be living in Taiwan currently.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made the arrests without incident Tuesday, the department said in a statement.
The six individuals have been charged with conspiring to use false passports, using false passports, and committing aggravated identity theft . They're accused of impersonating Chinese nationals required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) so they could earn a student visa.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment on Friday. According to those charges, they all used counterfeit passports to impersonate 19 Chinese nationals at various TOEFL testing sites in Los Angeles.
The indictment also claims the leader of the scheme paid for and registered 14 Chinese nationals for TOEFL exams from 2015 to 2016 and allegedly paid three of the other arrestees about $400 for each test after they took them.
Liu Cai, 23, is living in the U.S. on a student visa and allegedly facilitated the scheme. He reportedly took at least five TOEFL exams.
Elric Zhang, 24, allegedly took five TEOFL exams, Mohan Zhang, 24, allegedly took at least two TOEFL exams under the names of foreign nationals, and Samantha Wang, 24, allegedly took at least two TOEFL exams.
Those three participants in the scheme were arrested in Southern California and were expected to be arraigned in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Quang Cao, 24, allegedly took at least four TOEFL exams with false identification. Cao was arrested in Stockton, Calif., and was expected to appear in the Eastern District of California Tuesday afternoon.
The sixth person who was charged, Tuan Tran, 33, allegedly took at least one TOEFL exam.
The conspiracy count has a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison, the false passport charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years and aggravated identity theft has a mandatory consecutive two-year sentence.