A San Gabriel Valley man was sentenced Monday to four years in federal prison for scheming to help wealthy Chinese nationals unlawfully gain admission into the United States by falsely making them eligible for student visas through a network of fraud, including imposter test takers, essay ghostwriters and fake transcript sellers.
Yi “Brian” Chen, 35, of Monrovia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Mark C. Scarsi, who also ordered him to pay a fine of $400,000 and forfeit $50,000 of his ill-gotten gains, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
After a six-day bench trial that concluded on March 21, Scarsi found Chen guilty of one count each of visa fraud and aggravated identity theft — but acquitted him of one count of conspiracy to commit immigration document fraud and 10 counts of visa fraud.
From June 2015 to February 2021, Chen was the CEO and owner of two so-called educational consulting companies in Alhambra and Arcadia that charged foreign students thousands of dollars for “guaranteed” admission to a college that would lead to the issuance of an F-1 student visa.
To secure admission to a school, the companies prepared application packages that used bogus or altered transcripts, and hired people to impersonate the prospective student to take standardized tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language.
Chen submitted applications containing these fraudulent supporting materials on behalf of at least one foreign national, which helped the student obtain admission to New York University.
Once a foreign student was admitted to a college, the school issued a form which provided the basis for a student visa application or extension of permission to remain in the United States.
“Under the guise of operating an ‘educational consulting’ company, (Chen) made millions of dollars by faking every aspect of the college admissions process,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
Chen, who has been in federal custody since March 2021, received the lion’s share of the profits from the visa fraud scheme. He also controlled seven bank accounts that received more than $15 million in deposits between 2016 and 2020.
Chen and co-defendant Yixin Li, 29, of San Gabriel, are linked to a group of imposter test-takers who were the subject of an earlier indictment that outlined how they used fake Chinese passports to take TOEFL exams on behalf of foreigners seeking college admissions and student visas.
All six defendants in that case pleaded guilty and were sentenced to probation. Li was sentenced in February to time served.