British Columbia

High-tech medical exam cheating alleged

Two B.C. men are facing criminal charges for allegedly attempting a high-tech scam to cheat on a medical school entrance exam using secret cameras, wireless transmitters and three tutors, who at first did not realize they were being duped.

Charges of cheating

13 years ago
Duration 2:00
Featured VideoTwo B.C. men face charges of cheating on a medical school entrance exam using high-tech equipment, the CBC's Lisa Johnson reports

Two B.C. men are facing criminal charges for allegedly attempting a high-tech scam to cheat on a medical school entrance exam using secret cameras, wireless transmitters and three tutors, who at first did not realize they were being duped.

According to documents filed in provincial court in Richmond, B.C., Josiah Miguel Ruben and Houman Rezazadeh-Azar are each facing six charges including theft, unauthorized use of a computer, using a device to obtain unauthorized service and theft of data.

Police allege that on Jan. 29, Rezazadeh-Azar sat down in a room at the University of Victoria to write the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT, run by the Association of Medical Colleges.

Police allege he used a pinhole camera and wireless technology to transmit images of the questions on a computer screen back to his co-conspirator, Ruben, at the University of British Columbia.

High-profile cheating:

March 2011: A government worker in the Philippines exposed alleged cheating in the National Achievement Test (NAT) for elementary and high school students. Teachers at one school in Mangaldan town allegedly received copies of questions ahead of the NAT that were given to students as part of pre-test reviews. The scandal was exposed after a reporter and cameraman took video footage of students memorizing answers given by teachers and photocopies of the test papers.

Spring 2010: School administrators at George Washington Elementary School in Baltimore, Md., admitted changing wrong answers to right ones in state assessment test booklets of thousands of students after an 18-month investigation. The principal ’s professional licence was revoked, but she has denied involvement in the test tampering.

April 2010: Eleven Grade 12 students in Calgary and Edmonton cheated on the Alberta Pure Match 30 provincial diploma math exams after they received a copy of the test before exam day, according to Alberta Education officials. The security breach apparently occurred when a Calgary student was approved to write the exam at a special writing centre outside Canada.

September 2010: Results of provincial testing for the winter 2009-2010 period at 10 Ontario schools were withdrawn after the Education Quality and Accountability Office uncovered alleged cheating. Four elementary schools investigated by the EQAO were cleared of wrongdoing.

February 2011: A 15-year-old Saudi boy in the western province of Alula hanged himself at home after he was caught cheating in a class exam earlier in the day, according to the Arabic-language daily Alryadh.

Investigators believe Ruben then tricked three other students, who thought they were taking a multiple choice test for a job to be an MCAT tutor, into answering the questions.

The answers were then transmitted back by phone to Rezazadeh-Azar, as he continued on with the test in Victoria, police allege.

Tutors became suspicious

However, the would-be tutors became suspicious because of the poor quality of the images of the test questions, and the fact that they were allowed to discuss the question together before giving Ruben their answers. 

When Ruben left the room to transmit some of the answers, the would-be tutors checked online and determined the MCAT exam was being held that day in locations around the world.

They also found evidence on the computer's hard drives that the owner had been looking into pin-hole cameras and wireless networks.

So the three students called campus security and began submitting wrong answers to the scammers while they waited for the officers to arrive and arrest Ruben.

The documents said phone records also showed Rezazadeh-Azar was on an open phone line with Ruben during the exam.

Fraud cost testers more than $200,000

Teddi Fishman, the director of the International Centre for Academic Integrity in the Unites States, says most cases of cheating harm the testing organization and other students who are writing the test.

"This is unusual. This is just above and beyond what usually happens," said Fishman. "What's unusual here is that they actually conned the people who are going to be supplying the answers."

The organization which administers the Medical College Admissions Test told police the incident cost them more than $200,000 because the compromised test had to be discontinued and replaced.

Neither of the accused men offered any comment when contacted by CBC News.