Tuesday, February 23, 1999

Three men charged in
law school admissions
exam theft, scam

By Susan Kreifels


It's an allegation that involves Hawaii and California time zones and satellite technology, and an ambition so intense that it could put two aspiring attorneys and an accomplice in jail.

But educators say the message is clear: trying to scam college admissions tests doesn't pay.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported recently that three California men face charges of stealing a Law School Admissions Test.

University students Danny Khatchaturian and Dikran Iskendarian allegedly enlisted help from Ashot Melikyan in February 1997.

Melikyan is accused of using fake identification to register for the test at the University of Southern California.

When he was too noisy trying to sneak out with the test, a proctor chased him down, and Melikyan allegedly pulled a switchblade on the proctor.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles say Khatchaturian and Iskendarian, meanwhile, were in Honolulu to take the exam, where it was being administered hours later because of different time zones.

Melikyan allegedly transmitted answers to the two men on their alpha-numeric pagers, which receive messages via satellites. Test proctors here noticed the men paying too much attention to their pagers, according to the news report.

The two scored in the 99th percentile on the test, the report said. According to grand jury testimony, however, they performed less than mediocre in a "variable" section of the exam that differed from tests in other states.

"Getting into law school is very competitive," said Lawrence Foster, dean of the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii. "People push the envelope too far sometimes."

Foster anticipates the school will have 650 applicants this year for 75 slots.

The Law School Admissions Council, based in Pennsylvania, contracts with organizations throughout the United States and Canada to administer the LSAT four times a year, said council spokesman Ed Haggerty. This was the first time an LSAT allegedly was stolen.

Joan Ukishima of the UH Testing Office, who coordinates proctors for the LSAT, said she could not comment because of the pending legal case.

The Los Angeles Daily News reported that LSAT proctors in Hawaii flew to Los Angeles and testified that they confronted the two test takers after noticing them repeatedly tinkering with their pagers.

The Law School Admissions Council suspected Khatchaturian and Iskendarian had received the answers from someone else, investigated, and the case went to the grand jury, the report said.

Khatchaturian, Iskendarian and Melikyan were each charged with conspiracy, robbery and grand theft, charges that could land them in prison for five years.

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