Chinese Education Consulting Firm in New York Accused of Fraudulent Scheme to Place Chinese Students at Top Universities

Chinese Education Consulting Firm in New York Accused of Fraudulent Scheme to Place Chinese Students at Top Universities
People walk on the Columbia University campus in New York on July 1, 2013. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

Two Chinese international students studying in the United States have filed a lawsuit against a Chinese education consulting firm after the students were expelled from universities they were attending.

The lawsuit, filed at a New York federal court, was presented by plaintiffs Yu Shanchun and Jin Ruili, the former studying at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies prior to her expulsion, and the latter previously studying at Stony Brook University as an undergraduate, according to court documents.

The two accused Diguo Jiaoyu, a New York-based education consulting firm, of fraud and unjust enrichment. Yu and Jin paid hefty sums for the firm’s services, which claim to help students get accepted at prestigious American universities.

According to the complaint, Diguo was duly organized in New York in 2017 and has an address located in Manhattan. It mainly relies on word-of-mouth to promote the firm and communicates with clients through the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat.

While it claims to be a legitimate service, Diguo provides fabricated academic transcripts, resumes, and letters of recommendation to help their clients gain college admission—“unbeknown to plaintiffs,” according to the court complaint.

Additionally, Diguo would tell clients that the company has so-called “internal connections” with many prestigious universities in the United States, and that these connections, including with deans of admission and professors, would be willing to accept money as a form of donation, or contribution to a university foundation, in exchange for guaranteeing school admission.

In the case of Yu, she learned about Diguo’s services when she was an undergraduate student at Ohio State University. In December 2016, about a month before her college graduation, Yu was told by a fellow Ohio State student named Zhang Nanhao that she could get a chance at studying at a prestigious U.S. university through Diguo, even if her grades weren’t high enough. Yu began considering applying for a master’s program in New York.

Yu was then put in touch with Zhang Shuantao, a manager at Diguo, also known by his English name Kimi Zhang, who convinced Yu to use the firm’s services. Zhang claimed that the firm had a 100 percent success rate in helping students get into top colleges. Yu was convinced and agreed to pay about $45,000 to Diguo for the service.

According to the complaint, Zhang told Yu that the majority of the $45,000 would be a donation to Columbia University.

Yu was accepted in 2017 to Columbia’s graduate school. But in May 2018, she was expelled after being notified by Columbia’s Office of Student Conduct that the school determined that she had submitted fabricated application materials for admission.

In Jin’s case, she found out about Diguo’s services through a friend and Boston University student named Zhong Peixi in December 2017. Like Yu, Jin was put in contact with Zhang Shuantao.

Zhang, at first, asked Jin to pay $48,000 to help her enroll at Boston University, but after long negotiations, he reduced the price to $45,000.

Within a few weeks, Jin was informed by him that she had been accepted into Boston University. Then, on July 6, Jin received a FedEx package from Zhang, containing a sealed transcript that Jin was to bring to the university during her new student orientation prior to the school year.

Before Jin even started at Boston University, she was informed by the academic judiciary at Stony Brook University—where she was already studying as an undergraduate—about a fabricated transcript that had been sent on her behalf to Boston University, which led to her expulsion from Stony Brook.