Former Rhodes College student pleads guilty to changing online grades

Former Rhodes College student pleads guilty to changing online grades

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A former Rhodes College student pleaded guilty Tuesday to computer fraud while trying to preserve his scholarship.

During the 2017-18 academic year, 20-year-old Michael Geddati was a freshman pre-med major at Rhodes College in Memphis.

He received a scholarship valued at approximately $30,000 per semester. Continued receipt of the scholarship depended, in large part, on maintaining a particular grade-point average.

Beginning in approximately December 2017 and continuing through the spring semester, Geddati obtained credentials and passwords for instructors whose courses he was taking.

He then unlawfully accessed those instructors' accounts to downloaded exams and exam keys and change his official recorded grades.

Near the end of the spring term, one of Geddati's professors noticed a discrepancy between her offline and online records for Geddati.

According to her offline grade book, the grade that Geddati had earned in class was different and lower than the grade reflected in online records kept by Rhodes.

A subsequent review of the college’s servers indicated that a residential IP address had been used to access the professor's account, as well as the accounts of several other faculty members, all of whom had Geddati as a student.

Rhodes' server logs also contained evidence that in the preceding months, a laptop with the identifier “Michaels-MBP,” also associated with Geddati, used an internal Rhodes IP address to access both Geddati’s student account and the credentials of his instructors.

A total of more than 100 unauthorized access events were recorded. The same IP had also been used to access Michael Geddati's student account.

Records obtained during the investigation showed the IP address in question was assigned to Geddati's residence in Memphis during the period of unauthorized access to the Rhodes accounts.

Forensic examination of Geddati's laptop confirmed that the laptop’s MAC (media access control) address matched that found on Rhodes’ servers and used in the unauthorized access to the faculty accounts.

Rhodes convened an honor council; following a hearing, Geddati was expelled.

Pursuant to the plea agreement presented in court, Geddati has agreed to make restitution to Rhodes College that will include the value of his unearned scholarship.

Geddati faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, $250,000 fine and supervised probation. Sentencing is set for May 24, before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker.

Mike Brady, a computer expert who owns Cyber Solutions, said what Geddati did could have been difficult or pretty easy depending on how he did it.

"I don’t think he knew the consequences involved in what would happen if he got caught,” Brady said.

However, it’s something Rhodes student Nathan Musso does understand.

"Whenever you get charges from the FBI and you’re convicted of those charges, you’re probably not going to have a good time after that,” Musso said.

Tuesday, a representative from Rhodes College released this statement, which also went out to employees and students:

This morning a former Rhodes College student pleaded guilty to a federal computer crime.  According to information filed in federal court, the former student illegally gained access to academic systems and changed grades for their own benefit. With the assistance of all the faculty who were affected, the College discovered the intrusion at the end of last year’s spring semester. We conducted an internal investigation, and the FBI was alerted once we determined a federal crime had likely been committed. Today’s action is a result of the FBI’s investigation. Our internal investigation found no additional student or employee records were compromised. Over the last several months, our Information Services team has taken several steps to strengthen our security protocols, such as requiring campus-wide password resets, implementing the OneLogin Protect authentication system, and employing external sender tags for emails originating off campus. This incident illustrates the importance of the Rhodes Honor Code. Each of our students pledges they will not lie, cheat, or steal, and they will report those who do. We take any breach of our information systems very seriously.
Milton Moreland, Ph.D Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs

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