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Teacher Accused in Grades-For-Cash Deal

December 7, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) _ A computer science lab instructor at a community college changed students’ grades for cash and wine and told a student to lie before a grand jury in an attempt to cover up his lucrative scheme, prosecutors said.

Elvin Escano was charged with grand larceny, falsifying business records, computer tampering and forgery, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Escano, 46, was arrested Wednesday after a six-month investigation. He was arraigned and was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.

In a statement, Brown said Escano used his position over a 29-month period as an instructor and lab technician at LaGuardia Community College to inflate student grades for courses and exams: In exchange for better grades, students gave him cash payments ranging from $200 to $2,500 or items such as wine and alcohol.

Authorities allege Escano tampered with computer records in LaGuardia’s registrar’s office to reflect the higher grades. The indictment also accused Escano of recruiting students to promote his scheme and generate more business for him, sometimes paying them with grade changes.

In September, Brown said, Escano advised a student who had received a subpoena to testify before a grand jury to say she didn’t know anything.

Brown said Escano ``violated his own professional ethics″ and ``destroyed the public’s trust and confidence in the school.″

Escano’s lawyer said his client is innocent.

``He denies the charges, and he’s looking forward to going to court and clearing his name,″ attorney Paul Franzese said.

If convicted, Escano could face as many as seven years in prison.

He has been on paid sabbatical leave from LaGuardia since September.

LaGuardia is a college in the borough of Queens that is part of the City University of New York and has more than 14,000 students.

An audit of school records conducted by CUNY officials triggered the investigation when it disclosed discrepancies between registrar records and grades posted by course instructors.

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