DAVIE, Fla. – It is finals month for colleges across South Florida and when a viewer spotted an advertisement offering to write A+ papers for a fee, he asked Call Christina to investigate.
It turns out, the man behind the bold claim never earned a college degree and experts said the stakes are high for students who decide to take him up on his offer.
THE YELLOW SIGN:
A Local 10 viewer told the Call Christina team he spotted the bright, yellow sign on Davie Boulevard westbound turning onto Interstate 95 southbound.
In handwritten letters it read: "I WRITE A+ PAPERS ONLY $19/page" and included a phone number.
The man behind the sign is Sam Pichardo, a sort of self-professed jack of all trades pitching a variety of skill sets across the web.
On Facebook, Pichardo identifies himself as a business person, on Twitter a motivation and business speaker.
On one site he claims to be a professional photographer and videographer stating, "Trust an expert with years of experience in photography and media production."
On another site he said he can help you sell your house in Miami "fast," "work with a real, local investor that operates in South Florida. Work with someone who has years of experience and personally purchases properties himself with the financial backing of multimillionaires."
He also runs a professional writing service, guaranteeing a passing grade or your money back.
That's according to an online video shot selfie-style of Pichardo walking through a mall, yet another website and of course the big, bright, yellow sign.
According to Call Christina team member Gabrielle Arzola, who called the number on the sign and scheduled an appointment with Pichardo, "He definitely told me that he writes it all himself and he doesn't get anything less than an 'A' almost all the time."
So where did this A-writing professional writer earn his degree?
When the Call Christina team asked, he told reporter Christina Vazquez that he graduated from Florida International University (FIU) with a degree in Business Administration.
Vazquez checked with FIU, A spokesperson said they had no record of Pichardo graduating from FIU.
When Vazquez double-checked with him he conceded over the phone that he misspoke, that he meant to say he knows of people who graduated from FIU with a business degree and does not have a degree from any institution.
He did attend some classes at Miami-Dade College but never finished.
According to his website, there are a team of professional writers and ex-college professors to handle "writing assignment obligations."
He declined to offer up the name of one of the members of this team, saying that some things in business are "confidential."
"Now when you get to the idea that he's going to write A+ papers, or somebody can buy an A+ paper, that's quite a representation," said NOVA Southeastern University Consumer Law professor Michael Flynn.
"I am not sure he can guarantee every subject he’s writing a paper in that you can get an A+. I don't think he can say, or anybody can say, that they are even going to get a C. They are not in the class; they are not subject to what's being taught …so any kind of representation or guarantee there is going to be suspect to begin with, but I think it is the risk on the other side for the student that you have to be careful of."
WEB EXTRA: Flynn interview with Call Christina
"What he is selling you is a service to cheat," said Flynn. "Hiring somebody to write a paper for you is cheating."
Pichardo sees it differently. He claimed that his clients know that they can't submit what he produces.
During his interview, he begins to backpedal.
While the claims on his sign, website and online video make bold promises that he will help you "pass your class" by writing your paper, when pressed he said what he really does is provide "samples" and "editing."
If that's the case, not only does Flynn say his advertisements are bait-and-switch deceptive, but his service would be unnecessary given that you can get help with editing a paper for free on campus from either an academic resource center or even from the professor who assigned the paper.
Universities subscribe to software that can detect plagiarism.
Most colleges have an honor code, and cheating, academic dishonesty, is a grave enough offense to get you placed on probation or kicked out of school.
We asked various South Florida colleges and universities for the total number of students who have been expelled or placed on university probation in the past five years due to violating the student code of conduct when it comes to plagiarism/cheating.
Florida Atlantic University was the only institution to respond to our inquiry.
The following represents students expelled from FAU for "academic irregularity."
Flynn said the takeaway here for students is that hiring someone else to do your work, write your paper or create the content of your assignment is not worth the risk of probation or expulsion.
"You can get the editing done for free," said Flynn. "You don't have to pay for it."