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Federal prosecutors charged George Kobayashi with helping graduate students cheat on GMAT, GRE and TOEFL exams. Federal prosecutors arrested a California man Saturday on charges that he operated an elaborate scheme to help prospective graduate school students cheat on standardized admissions tests. The U.S. Attorney's Office in New York announced the charges Monday against George Kobayashi, who allegedly ran his self-described "unique" method of cheating since 1993. If convicted, Kobayashi faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $500,000 fine. According to the federal complaint, Kobayashi hired experts to take the graduate exams in New York and then telephone the correct answers to Kobayashi's office in Los Angeles. Taking advantage of the three-hour time difference between New York and L.A., employees in L.A. quickly coded the answers onto pencils, which they gave to their clients. Most of the students who cheated were based in New York, but flew to L.A. to take the exams under the circumstances Kobayashi provided. Kobayashi charged from $3,000 to $6,000 for the service. Officials broke the Kobayashi case when a federal investigator witnessed the alleged scam at a Graduate Management Admissions Test given October 19 in Los Angeles. Kobayashi also allegedly provided answers for the Graduate Record Exam and the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The Educational Testing Service, which administers the three exams Kobayashi's clients cheated on, helped investigators solve the case. But ETS spokesperson Kevin Gonzalez said cheating usually occurs only on an individual basis. "This is pretty rare," he said. "In 1993, there was an impersonation ring. And the reason we know about it is that they were caught." Several years ago, some Penn students unknowingly were involved in a scandal with a Medical College Admission Test preparation course, according to Gail Glicksman, assistant director for pre-health and pre-graduate advising for Career Planning and Placement Service. In that scheme, the company paid people to take the test and report the questions back so they could be used as preparation material for the course. "My advice to students who are considering test preparation aids is that they need to be intelligent, discerning consumers," Glicksman said. "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." Gonzalez said ETS is in the midst of re-evaluating its administration procedures, but added that inherent problems lie in the process. "Obviously, we can't give tests all at the same time or we'd have people in California taking tests at six in the morning," said Gonzalez, adding that the current measures to prevent cheating have been effective. "We have a system in place that works at catching people who try such scams," he said. "Because it is as involved as it is, Mr. Kobayashi and company were caught." While Kobayashi faces criminal charges, Gonzalez said the real victims are the "honest students." He added that competition to get into graduate programs is the driving force behind cheating. "These are high-stakes tests," Gonzalez said. "If somebody's willing to pay $6,000, that shows how serious they think the tests are."

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