Former Educator Could See Hard Time

ATHENS - Former Colquitt County educator Ernest Shanks Jr. has been arrested on two counts of forgery for his role in test fraud committed for the benefit of a former Georgia basketball recruit.

"It is an issue involving the University of Georgia and the NCAA," said GBI agent Ronnie Thompson, who confirmed the arrest Friday and said Shanks has been released on bond.

On Dec. 11, 2002, Shanks resigned from his job as guidance counselor at Colquitt County High School after acknowledging he tried to have a student take the SAT for basketball player Alexander Johnson, who was being recruited by former Bulldog basketball coach Jim Harrick.

The student, the son of Colquitt County assistant superintendent of schools Maureen Yearta, was paid $50 with the promise of more for agreeing to take the test. Yearta's son initially agreed in early December of 2002. He was provided with Johnson's social security card and a fake Colquitt County identification card but then decided not to take the test and told his mother of the plan.

A joint investigation by Georgia and the NCAA into Georgia's basketball program looked into Johnson's recruitment but didn't find a link between Harrick and Shanks. The incident was not mentioned in the NCAA's recent letter of inquiry to Georgia.

Johnson, who is averaging 9.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game this year at Florida State, claimed at the time to have no knowledge of the fraud and not to know Shanks.

Shanks could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for his role in the scam. The GBI will now have to convince a grand jury in Colquitt County to indict Shanks before it can more forward with the case, Thompson said.

The GBI was contacted in July of last year by the regional district attorney's office covering Colquitt County and asked to investigate Shanks, Thompson said.

"Evidently, there was some correspondence between the D.A.'s office and the University of Georgia," he said.

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