Man accused in TCC scandal part of nationwide fraud probe

Tuesday, May 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A man accused in a grade-tampering scheme at Tulsa Community College is part of a nationwide investigation of student visa fraud and academic dishonesty.

Federal prosecutors confirmed Monday that Tarig Al-Taweel, 33, is named in a criminal charge in Newark, N.J.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor in New Jersey, said the charge against Al-Taweel was sealed, but his name was released because he is jailed in Tulsa and is not a flight risk.

Al-Taweel has been in custody since Nov. 5 on felony complaints that first involved stolen property and then for allegedly altering student records at TCC's Northeast Campus. He also is named in a Tulsa federal grand jury indictment.

Federal officials in New Jersey announced last week the arrests of 56 international students, mostly from the Middle East, who had hired surrogates to take their Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, exam.

International students have to pass a TOEFL exam to get a student visa and attend a U.S. college or flight school.

Arab students in 13 states, including Oklahoma, and the District of Columbia were arrested.

Oklahoma State University student Omar Al-Kaabi, 20, of the United Arab Emirates, also was arrested, as was a former student who was arrested in Tulsa but released because of a faulty arrest warrant.

Educational Testing Service identified two ``professional test takers'' and monitored their activities for months to help federal officials lay the groundwork for criminal charges, said Ray Nicosia, director of test security.

The New Jersey company is one of the world's largest private educational testing services.

Prosecutors were trying to determine whether potential terrorists are using fraud to obtain student visas and thereby pose a threat to national security.

The terrorists who flew jumbo jets into the World Trade Center towers in New York on Sept. 11 got student visas from flight training schools after submitting their English test scores to the schools.

Tulsa police found a receipt from a New Jersey company during a search of Al-Taweel's home Oct. 12, according to police documents.

``The receipt is probably (Educational Testing Service) since they are the only TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) business in town,'' Drewniak said. ``We believe there are core groups across the county that are doing these types of frauds. Whether or not they are connected, we don't know.''

Al-Taweel also took the English test twice under another name at Prometric testing services, which uses an exam prepared by ETS.

Officials say Al-Taweel took the test under the name, Fahad Boubshait, of Saudi Arabia. Boubshait was asked to leave Spartan School of Aeronautics in November when he couldn't prove the authenticity of his English score.

In the state investigation, Al-Taweel and former TCC registrar employee Dlorah Jean Hogle, 45, have been charged with felonies for allegedly altering student records in violation of the Computer Crimes Act.

Hogle alleges that Al-Taweel routinely forged English-test documents and passports so foreign students could remain in the country, court documents show.

Al-Taweel has been charged in Tulsa County District Court with eight felony counts. Hogle, who is cooperating with police, is named in two counts.