'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
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before