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Bogus Degree Sale Scheme Hits New York City college

Teachers, students and administrators tampered with a
private college’s computer system to change grades and create fake degrees for
money, prosecutors charged Monday. Among the fake degrees given were those for
physicians’ assistants, they said.

The 10 defendants created or altered records for at least 50
people since January, charging fees of $3,000 to $25,000 for better or deleted
grades and for bachelor’s and master’s degrees, District Attorney Robert
Morgenthau said.

Those indicted include Touro
College’s former director of admissions,
the former director of the school’s computer center, three former Touro
students and three public school teachers, Manhattan
prosecutors said.

“One dangerous thing they did was give degrees to
physicians’ assistants,” Morgenthau said.

Records found in the home of Andrique Baron, a former
admissions director at Touro’s campus in Manhattan,
showed he was running the scheme as early as 2003 and possibly earlier,
Morgenthau said.

“We don’t know how many hundreds, maybe thousands, were
involved,” the district attorney said.

Baron’s main accomplice was Michael Cherner, former director
of the computer center at the school’s Brooklyn campus,
Morgenthau said.

Baron, 34, and Cherner, 50, also took bribes to create
master’s degree transcripts for three city schoolteachers who never attended
Touro, said the district attorney.

Money was collected from the teachers by a bagman identified
in Baron’s cell phone by the nickname Jimmy Bag, the district attorney said.

Touro spokeswoman Barbara Franklin said the college was
aware of the investigation and has cooperated fully. Touro brought the
wrongdoing to the attention of the district attorney’s office, she said.

The scheme was “confined to what appears to have been a
betrayal of trust by persons with responsibility for the integrity of the
record-keeping,” she said.

Touro has 23,300 students in 29 locations, mostly in New
York, according to its Web site. The private Jewish
college was founded in 1970.

Lawyers for Baron and Cherner did not immediately return telephone
calls seeking comment Monday.

Baron spent the cash on two luxury cars, high-end audio
equipment and huge flat-screen television sets in almost every room in his
home, Morgenthau said.

Six of the 10 defendants were arrested at various times from
March to July on charges of computer trespass, computer tampering and
falsifying business records. Baron, Cherner and the bag man also were charged
with bribe receiving. All the charges are punishable by up to four years in

Four of the 10 defendants are at large.

– Associated Press

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