A former Baltimore City Community College math professor pleaded guilty to selling grades and access codes to students in exchange for money and was sentenced to prison Thursday, state prosecutors said.
Edward Ennels, 45, pleaded guilty to 11 charges, including bribery and misconduct in office. Nine of the 10 years of his prison sentence were suspended, and he will face five years of supervised probation. He will also be required to pay back $60,000.
“Ennels used his position as professor to implement an elaborate criminal scheme to take advantage of his students,” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in a statement. “I appreciate the cooperation of BCCC in helping bring this case to a successful conclusion and holding Ennels accountable for his criminal actions.”
Ennels’ attorney, Benjamin J. Herbst, did not respond to a request for comment.
Prosecutors said that between 2013 and 2020 Ennels, who was the chairperson of the faculty senate’s Ethics and Institutional Integrity Committee from 2018 to 2019, sold academic access codes and offered favorable grades to students in exchange for money from his Baltimore County home.
The former math professor and president of the BCCC faculty senate started being investigated by law enforcement in December 2020. Prosecutors said Ennels asked for a bribe from a student in exchange for a favorable grade. That student then reported him to the college, and BCCC notified law enforcement which then uncovered the scope of both schemes.
Ennels, who worked at BCCC for 15 years, used his work email account and encouraged faculty beginning in 2013 to distribute flyers to students that urged them to purchase access codes from a “Tom Smith,” instead of from the bookstore.
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Throughout the seven years that his scheme ran, prosecutors say, Ennels sold almost 700 access codes for about $90 each and violated the college’s ethics rules. They also said he “went to great lengths to conceal his identity,” saying that Ennels emailed a BCCC associate dean as Tom Smith and said he had recently undergone throat surgery and could not talk on the phone.
Ennels obtained the academic access codes through at least two fraudulent means, prosecutors said. He often obtained the codes directly from publishers on behalf of BCCC and also obtained them from BCCC through his associate dean. He also told an associate dean that specific students were experiencing financial hardship to obtain access codes to sell. Prosecutors said he also got access codes by making fraudulent representations to customer service.
Then between March and December 2020, Frosh’s office said he used other alter egos, “Bertie Benson” and “Amanda Wilbert,” to persuade students to pay him for a better grade.
Often, Ennels would charge $150 for a C or $250 for a B or $500 for an A in a higher-level course. Most students declined his offer. He sent emails to his class roster, which at one point was 112 students, and also directly solicited individuals directly through email.
The former professor would haggle and try to negotiate a price from students, prosecutors said. In one instance from last August, he offered a student a passing grade in exchange for $500.
The student responded: “Oh I don’t have that sorry. I will be sure to keep studying and pass my exam.” Ennels then asked how much the person could afford. The student ended up paying it, though prosecutors did not say how much.
After receiving payment from his students, Ennels would either issue the agreed grade as the student’s final grade, complete a grade change form to change the student’s final grade, or make changes to the grades the students received for individual assignments and tests to cause the student’s final grade calculation to arrive at the agreed grade.