updated 7/16/2007 10:22:30 PM ET 2007-07-17T02:22:30

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.

Degrees for teachers
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.

Four defendants at large
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 prison.

Four of the 10 defendants are at large.

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