Florida Memorial Workers Accused of Changing Grades For Cash, Sex
Two former Florida Memorial University employees and five students have been charged in a grade-changing racket that involved cash payments, computer hacking and sexual favors.
Ellis Peet, 37, and Clifton Franklin, 32, received payments from $75 to $600 to change more than 650 grades for 122 students over a period of three years ending in 2002, court records showed. Franklin also allegedly received sex from female students after changing their grades.
Peet, a computer technician in the registrar’s office, and Franklin, a data entry clerk, were fraternity brothers and acted on their own to organize the scheme, say officials at Florida Memorial, a four-year, historically Black school of about 2,000 students in the working-class suburb of Miami Gardens. Both graduates of the school, they also allegedly changed their own grades.
“We were very disappointed and very dismayed by the actions of these individuals,” said Marty Pinkston, the school’s director of governmental and public affairs. “This happened in 2002, and we just want to put it behind us.”
Peet was arrested last month. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering and violating intellectual property and computer access laws and hopes to be vindicated at trial, says his attorney, J.C. Dugue. The lawyer declined to comment on specifics because he was still reviewing the evidence gathered by prosecutors.
Franklin, who faces identical charges, has not been found by police. Of the five students who acted as middlemen, three have been arrested, police say. They are charged with racketeering.
The school discovered in May 2002 that unauthorized access to its computer system had occurred and grades had been illicitly improved. The school hired a private investigations firm, and the probe’s results were cited in arrest records stating charges against the seven. A story on the charges was reported in The Miami Herald.
The investigation found that Peet and Franklin allegedly used generic passwords or those belonging to other registrar employees to make the switches. Peet was fired and Franklin resigned during the investigation.
The five students were accused of conspiring to recruit other students who wanted their grades changed, and receiving cash payments for the switches, and kickbacks from Peet in the process, court records showed.
Pinkston said the school has taken several safeguards to prevent a repeat of the scheme, including a mandatory change in passwords every 40 days, and the elimination of generic passwords.
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