BYU investigates cheating ring allegations

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BYU administrators and The Daily Universe recently received an email alleging that a multi-university cheating ring has a presence at BYU. The Daily Universe received the email both directly from the person making the allegations and as a forwarded email from John Taylor, associate dean of BYU Continuing Education.

The email, sent by a person who identified herself as Milly Wong, was also sent to administrators at the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Berkeley; New York University and Columbia University. The email said other schools are involved but did not specify further. The email contained a photo of the alleged ringleader, as well as photos of test documents from BYU, Columbia University and U.C. Berkeley.

In the email, Wong claimed she works for the ringleader, who finds students at these universities through WeChat, a popular Chinese texting and calling app. The students then pay him around $3,000 to cover a whole course. According to Wong, in BYU’s case, the courses are all through the Independent Study program.

The alleged ringleader claims to have no knowledge of the cheating ring. He also claims he does not know who Wong is.

The alleged ringleader was contacted through a phone number included in Wong’s email. After he confirmed he was the person named in the email, he was told he was speaking to a reporter with The Daily Universe and informed of the allegations and asked to respond to those allegations for a story. He then asked that the email containing the allegations be forwarded to him.

“I never help anybody cheating (sic), and I never cheat in any class,” he said in his reply email. “I think this guy want to frame me up and to cover up somebody. I am really confused what happened.”

In the photos of documents attached to Wong’s email, two names were on photos of tests from BYU Independent Study. One name did not appear in the BYU student directory, but the other was listed along with an email address.

The Daily Universe sent the second student an email explaining she was being contacted by a reporter, outlining the allegations and asking her to comment.

“I am also very confused with what is going on here,” the student said in her reply email. “Last week, BYU independent study sent me an email about they are currently investigating the whole situation and they put my account on hold, so I am also waiting for a result from BYU.”

She has not responded to further questions.

Wong’s email also names two students she believes are affiliated with UCLA. Facebook searches for one returned no results, but a Facebook search for the other returned six results. All six people were contacted via Facebook messenger, told the message was from a reporter with The Daily Universe, informed of the allegations and asked to comment. Follow up messages were sent a day later, but none of the six has responded.

Requests for comment from Taylor and from BYU Independent Study were directed to University Communications, which responded with a statement that the allegations are being taken “very seriously” and are being looked into. The university did not confirm what measures are being taken to investigate.

“If evidence of academic dishonesty on assignments is established or if submitted work is found to be profane or unduly disrespectful of others, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken,” the statement reads, quoting from BYU Independent Study’s Academic Honor Code Policy.

Consequences for cheating, the statement continues, may include rescinding the grade, failing the course, prohibiting re-enrollment in the course and prohibiting participation in future independent study courses.

Wong’s email claims she and others like her do the coursework, but she’s coming forward now because she hasn’t been paid. Her email also said she’s forgotten how many students she’s helped, but they were all Chinese.

This graphic shows the number of Chinese students at the universities accused of being involved in a cheating ring. An individual identifying as Milly Wong sent an email to The Daily Universe with information regarding the cheating ring, including a list of universities involved. Wong said she completed tests for students and decided to come forward after not being paid. Wong said all the students she helped in the cheating ring were Chinese. (Haley Mosher)

In her email, Wong said she doesn’t know in some cases how photos of completed exams are sent to students during tests. She also didn’t say how the tests are obtained in the first place.

Her email claims this is a well-known service, particularly within UCLA.

“I feel like everyone already know it since the scale is so massive, like every Chinese students know it since they are here for Community College or University,” her email said.

Wong did not respond to requests for an interview.

Cloud He, a BYU public relations student from Singapore, said she stopped working at BYU Independent Study this summer.

We didn’t hear anything about that,” she said, referring to allegations or rumors of this cheating ring.

She also said she worked in the Asian Language Department but a different department looked over exams.

Teancum Tian, a second-year BYU student from China, said he’s never used BYU Independent Study and he’s never heard of this cheating ring.

“That’s a very rare part of people who are doing these things,” he said. “That’s kind of a bad reputation for our Chinese people.”

Read Wong’s full email below, edited only to remove names and contact information:

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hi Professors or Staffs,

I have been helping students from UCLA, NYU, UCB, Columbia and other schools to get the A in exams and assignments, such as STAT-121 class from BYU (Brighan Young University) online program. I forget how many students I helped, but they are all Chinese. I’m just one of the helpers since we all contacted by an agent (Xxx Xxx (Xxxxx) Xx, graduated from UCLA, photo is attached, he manages to find students in UCLA and other school through WeChat, his phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx, with WeChat account name xxxxxxxxxxxx). I get in touch with a student before, and he said they all pay the agent around $3000 to cover the whole course, all assignments and exams. It is very well-known service from him, in particular within UCLA.

Today, this agent contact me again. I help him to finish the final exam for STAT-121-M004 from BYU (the exam should take place today or tomorrow). But he didn’t pay. Thats why i decide to tell everyone about this long term cheating events. The student i just helped is “xxxxx xx” (from UCLA i believe). I attached the exam the agent sent me (i have the whole exam he sent me, if needs, i can provide more information), with the student name on the exam paper. Another student i helped that i still can recall is “xxx xxx xxxx”, also from UCLA. (For some cases, I don’t know how they manage to take the photos of the exam and send it to people during exams… lol)

The agent (Xxxxx Xx) has been helping a lot of students to cheat in UCLA. For example, he asked me two days ago, can i help a student in UCLA who took Analysis II to do the exam on Monday (Oct 23) at 9am.

Other than UCLA, that he has been actively helping students to cheat on both assignments, essays and exams, he also helped students from UC Berkeley, NYU, Columbia and more, because he sent me the assignments from those classes before. For example, i helped students to do assignments in STAT GU5205 (attached) from Columbia University, STAT134 Midterm and Final exam from UC Berkeley (attached).

I feel like everyone already know it since the scale is so massive, like every Chinese students know it since they are here for Community College or University.

P.S.: This email is also sent to local news just in case people ignore this incidence to protect the school reputation. I hope it gets attention.

Milly