Monday, August 22, 2011
For many, this week starts the first week of classes. So it seems appropriate to remind everyone that hi-tech grade changing schemes can land students with criminal convictions and prison time.
The Eleventh Circuit upheld the conviction and sentence of an undergraduate student at Florida A & M University (FAMU) who had received a sentence of 84 months and was appealing. (U.S. v. Barrington) This student, along with two co-defendants, "all undergraduate students at Florida A&M University ("FAMU"), were indicted and charged in a five count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud using a protected computer in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371 and 1349; fraud using a protected computer in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§1030(a)(4) and (c)(3)(A) and 2; and three counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1028A and 2." Two of the students "pleaded guilty pursuant to plea agreements, received substantial assistance departures pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1, and were each sentenced to 22 months in prison and 3 year terms of supervised release."
In this case it started with using "blank grade change slips." But it then moved to installing "keylogger software on various University computers, including an office computer used by a Registrar employee and four terminals placed in the University's grand ballroom during registration." They captured the Registrar's usernames and passwords which allowed them access to the system so that they could change grades. They even went so far as to change "the residencies of several non-resident students to qualify them for in-state tuition." The court noted that an investigation "revealed that in excess of 650 unauthorized grade changes had been made, involving at least 90 students."
The 11th Circuit rejected the appealing defendant's legal error claims and also claims that the sentence was improper.