Federal investigators last year uncovered a scheme by a Chinese woman named Yinyan Wang to use highly sophisticated passport forgeries to take entrance exams in the names of other students for money.
Wang pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge in Boston. What happened next outraged prosecutors.
A federal judge appointed by former President Barack Obama expressed displeasure that the U.S. Attorney’s Office arranged for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to take custody of Wang in the courthouse in order to deport her. The judge, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani, sentenced Wang last week to a year of probation.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Wednesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that his office had worked out the deportation component with Wang’s attorney.
“But I think all of this is something of a surprise to the district court judge, who was unhappy that that kind of enforcement was going on in the courthouse … She was unhappy about ICE enforcement in the courthouse,” he said.
Lelling said he believes Wang deserved incarceration for her offense.
“That’s a symptom of being in this jurisdiction, I’m afraid … Unfortunately, low sentences are something we live with here in Boston,” he said. “It’s a tough jurisdiction for the government.”
Lelling said Wang entered the United States on a student visa in 2013 and then started offering her test-taking services for a fee of a few thousand dollars to students facing the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test.
Lelling said Wang was studying in Pennsylvania and took tests there, New York and Massachusetts, where she finally got caught. He said it is not an isolated case. He said his office has prosecuted five Chinese nationals in the last few years, each using high-quality forged passports.
“It happens a lot with China,” he said. “I think in this instance, you know, maybe there’s sort of an organized crime aspect behind this.”
Beyond the test fraud, Lelling said, investigators became concerned by how good the faked documents were.
“What bothered us is that the fake passport she was using was a Chinese passport with a U.S. visa and a Customs and Border Protection stamp — all of which were fake but all of which were extremely well-made,” he said. “And so, she didn’t do this herself. She had help.”
Lelling said the quality of the forged documents raise national security concerns.
“It’s getting harder and harder to really counterfeit, to create a really good counterfeit of passports,” he told Ingraham. “These guys did. And it’s just what you’re saying. You could use these for any — you know, all different kinds of mayhem. I mean, test-taking is the least of it. It’s a tremendous security concern.”
As for the judge’s reaction to ICE officers taking custody of Wang in the courthouse, Lelling called it another example of the “relentless politicization and hysteria” surrounding routine law enforcement.
“Immigration laws — they’re laws,” he said. “You don’t get to pick and choose which ones get enforced.”
Lelling said Wang currently is in ICE custody. But that is not the end of it because she has claimed asylum.