WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - From an F to an A with a simple keystroke. Three current or former Purdue students face a combined 43 criminal charges after investigators said they hacked into their professors' accounts and changed their grades. Two have been arrested, while one is in Japan.
"If they were smart enough to break into the computers and change their grades, they were probably smart enough to just do the material," said Jordan Thomas, an engineering student.
"That's your whole life and it's not worth the risk," said Ashley Baldwin, another student.
But three Purdue students took a risk most students wouldn't dare try. Investigators said Mitsutoshi Shirasaki, Roy Sun and Sujay Sharma all changed their grades illegally by accessing their professors' accounts.
"These were some students who were very smart, who decided to take their knowledge and their wisdom, used it for things they shouldn't have used it for," said John Cox, Purdue Police Chief.
Last November, a professor noticed his password had been changed by somebody else, leading to an investigation by a security analyst through Purdue's technology services. The security analyst found that Shirasaki logged into the professor's account and changed his grade from a C to a B. Investigators said that Shirasaki had been changing his grades since the spring of 2010, even changing some grades from As to A-plusses. Sharma had one grade changed. Purdue officials said those two are no longer enrolled. As for Sun, he had been changing grades since 2008 and actually graduated from Purdue in 2010.
"His status is currently under review with the University right now for possible degree revocation," said Jeffery Stefancic, Associate Dean of Students.
According to court documents, the three students would install key-logging devices on professors' keyboards to get their passwords. They would pick locks to access the keyboards in offices or classrooms. Sun and Sharma have been arrested, but Shirasaki is 6,000 miles away.
"We interviewed him and obviously it's a process and we work with the prosecutor's office and we wait for them to charge. He decided to go back to Japan. I know that the prosecutor's office has been in contact with his attorney and I believe he may be coming back to the states to be able to cooperate with the prosecutor's office," said Cox.
Sharma faces seven charges. Sun and Shirasaki face 18 each, including burglary, theft, forgery and computer tampering. Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington said they could be facing anywhere from 2-9 years in prison.
"They are going to do jail time that's worth two to two and a half times of college. They should have just done it right the first time," said Thomas.
Purdue police said Roy Sun was in grad school at Boston University. They are working with the university's police department to figure out if he was changing his grades there as well.
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