'Talented' Asperger's man escapes jail for exam fraud

A highly intelligent former City banker who suffers from Asperger's syndrome and an economics student have been given suspended jail sentences for cheating in university exams.

Jerome Drean, 34, and Elnar Askerov, 23, each received sentences of nine months' imprisonment suspended for two years after Drean was paid £20,000 for posing as Askerov, a student at York University, using a fake identity card.

Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the University of York, between January 2006 and May last year, at a hearing a York Crown Court in January.

The court heard yesterday that Drean, who has worked at the Bank of America and Credit Suisse and earned about £2m in three years, met Askerov a few years ago to help him with his studies.

Robert Smith QC, for Drean, said Askerov, who was described as "not particularly bright academically", asked Drean to sit his exams for him and paid him between £200 and £1,000 for each exam. Drean sat exams in Askerov's place using a false ID card in Askerov's name but bearing Drean's photograph.

They were found out in May last year when an exam invigilator noticed that someone was preparing to sit the exam who was not on the course and that Askerov was not present.

Drean told police his motivation was "money and not wanting to let a friend down", but Mr Smith said his actions were "profoundly influenced by his disorder". Drean's counsel told how his Asperger's disorder made him "vastly intelligent" but that it could make him act in socially unacceptable ways.

He said: "He displays a genius but also displays a lack of insight in ordinary social norms." Mr Smith continued: "He did not want to do what he did but having been given an invitation he seems to have seen it as some sort of challenge."

He said Drean was spoken of highly in the financial industry but would never be employed by a major bank again and had destroyed his own life as a result of this conviction. Mr Smith said: "This man's life has turned from success to disaster entirely of his own making."

Alexander Cameron QC, for Askerov, said his client had felt pressure to achieve from his family.

Both men, from London, were also sentenced to undertake a maximum of 300 hours' unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £1,360 each. Judge Ashurst made a confiscation order for Drean to pay £16,000. He has already repaid £4,000.

Sentencing the men, Judge Ashurst described the case as "highly unusual". He said: "The court simply does not know how serious a problem examination fraud of this kind may be. If it's widespread of course it erodes the confidence the public can have in academic degrees. This conduct, and your conduct in particular, must be deeply offensive to the thousands of diligent students who do work hard.

"This case involves cheating the University of York and it's quite clear that a degree of sophistication and planning was involved.

"The idea that degrees can be bought and sold must be discouraged." The judge said Drean was a man of "exceptional talent" and "quite remarkable abilities". He added: "I'm persuaded that your underlying Asperger's condition has had a marked influence on your poor judgement as to what happened."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent