Alumnus, students face felony charges in exam theft ring

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Photo by Alberto G. courtesy of Creative Commons

Madison Fantozzi/News Director
This story published Monday, January 2, 2014 in FIU’s The Beacon

Three students and an alumnus are facing felony charges as part of an exam theft ring. The scheme involved breaking into an Owe Ehan room, hacking into a professor’s email to obtain unauthorized exams and selling the stolen material to students during finals week.

Krissy Lamadrid, 21, Jason Calderon, 23, Neissy Vasquez Amador, 22, and 30-year-old alumnus Alex Anaya have been charged with dealing in stolen property.

Information about their December arrests were made available by University Police Chief Alexander Casas.

Anaya, the alleged ringleader who began his distribution scheme fall 2013, gained access to four exams through a professor’s secure email account and a fifth exam by breaking into room 219 at Modesto Maidique Campus.

Arrest forms state Anaya sold exams for $150 a piece and he has also been charged with theft and burglary.

Lamadrid and Calderon were involved in the distribution of exams and the collection of money.

Lamadrid claimed to be the financial manager of the operation and was found with approximately $860 on her person — money she claims she was entrusted with to purchase exams on behalf of other students.

Calderon claimed the exams were obtained by a former student, presumably Anaya. Police reports state that Amador was also a financier of the operation.

All students acknowledged they knew the exams were stolen.

In total, three exams were compromised. One class and a limited number of students were impacted. University officials did not name the professor or the affected class, but Casas said a microbiology exam was compromised. Finals proceeded as scheduled.

William Beesting, associate dean of undergraduate education, said he has never seen academic dishonesty “on this kind of scale” but he believes the community can benefit from the incident by inciting others to step forward in light of such dishonesty.

“I have seen students that are obsessed with a goal — for example, going to medical school — and they forget or ignore any ethics. Anything justifies the goal.  Whatever it takes,” said Astrid Arrarás, senior lecturer and undergraduate adviser in the School of International and Public Relations. “But I have never heard of this before, ever.”

While University members say they have never witnessed academic dishonesty at this scale, the exam theft ring is only the latest of several high-profile cheating allegations at state universities in recent years.

The University of Central Florida  made national news in 2010 when about 200 students came forward to admit involvement in purchasing and accessing a test bank sold online. Students had to retake the exam and complete an ethics course.

Central Florida Future, UCF’s student newspaper, reported in 2012 that the university would start denoting cheaters with a “Z” designation on students’ transcripts.

Cheating has also plagued schools like Florida State University, which discovered that 61 athletes in 10 sports had committed academic fraud in 2009, and University of Florida, where a professor found that over 240 students in a computer science class had cheated in 2012.

Under Florida statute, those who knowingly purchase stolen property face second-degree felony charges whereas those who steal and then plan to sell stolen property face first-degree felony charges.

Lamadrid faces six felony counts of dealing in stolen property, Amador faces three and Anaya and Calderon both face one.

Hearings will take place January 8 and 9.

The investigation is ongoing and the University said in a statement that new, relevant information will be provided when available.

news@fiusm.com

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