Students arrested after plot to sneak through air duct and steal exam paper is foiled

One pupil managed to get into the building through the vent – and said it wasn’t the first time

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The Independent US

A group of students at a US university are facing charges after an alleged plot to sneak into the school and steal a copy of an upcoming exam was foiled. 

The plan had been for one of the University of Kentucky students to crawl through an air duct they determined would lead into their instructor's office in the wee hours of the morning, The New York Times reports.

Like a scene from a spy film, the student would then lower himself from the ceiling, and with the help of a peer, steal a copy of a final exam for a statistics class. 

They might have gotten away with it had the class instructor not been working late that night, the newspaper reports.

The instructor, John P Cain, had gone out for a midnight meal and returned to his office just in time to catch the students in action, a university spokesman said. 

The students’ plan unravelled at around 2am on Wednesday at the university’s Lexington, Kentucky campus, Jay Blanton said. 

One of the pupils, identified as Henry Lynch II, had been able to make his way through the duct to the third-floor office of the instructor, where he then opened the door to let another student in. 

Mr Blanton said it’s not clear how long Mr Lynch, a 21-year-old junior studying biosystems engineering, and his peer were in the office, but when Professor Cain returned from his meal break, the pair had blocked the door. 

When the instructor called out that he was going to call the police, the students rushed out of the office and made a run for it down the hall, Mr Blanton said. 

Shortly after police arrived, Mr Lynch returned to the school grounds to confess, fearing that Mr Cain would be able to identify him as one of his students. 

Both Mr Lynch and his accomplice, Troy Kiphuth, a 21-year-old pupil studying agricultural economics, were charged with felony burglary.

Depending on the state and circumstances, a felony burglary conviction in the US can result in 20 years or more in prison, although a misdemeanour burglary charge is more likely to result in a sentence of up to a year in jail.

Mr Lynch also confessed to police that while he did not find the exam this time around, he had successfully stolen another exam from Mr Cain’s office earlier in the semester by sneaking through the same duct, but did not share the answers with other students. 

Mr Blanton did not say what consequences the students might face from the university, but he did say the school’s Office of Student Conduct will be investigating.

He also highlighted the fact that while “it’s an unusual set of circumstances ... It also underscores how late our faculty work.”