Middle-aged, hiding behind a fictitious name, the man made a staggering proposal to Postimees journalist posing as 12th grader struggling with sciences: for ten intimate encounters, he may improve the gal’s math state exam result in public database. Two weeks later, as it all turned out to be journalistic experiment, Fred – a research fellow at University of Tartu – fled into the night as cameras flashed their light, denying everything.
The info reaching Postimees on March 6th seemed incredible: there is a man who, in a well-known ads portal, offers outwardly usual consultations regarding preparation for state exams. A 12th grader, sincerely looking for help, had an experience so shocking that she turned to web constable for help.
Shocking in what way? From the usual consultation, this was a far cry: the better exam result was not to be a result of study, rather by falsification. Payment method was intimate services only.
Whether the author of the ad was a crook making use of naive gals or an official abusing e-state information system, the thing was worthy of a check.
Meeting Mr X
To make sure if it was a crook or if the allegedly trustworthy e-state system was indeed subject to manipulation, a day after the hint we decided to play 12th grader and answer the add.
Thus, in the role of a 12th grader Heleri, a journalist contacted the consultant in the ads portal. The reply arrived the next day: «I work with these IT-systems where your exam results pass thru. The data will simply be changed so no-one will understand. Payment upon agreement,» read the reply. As we inquired further about the sums, the answer related intentions of the man more precisely.
«I don’t believe you will have such money available as would be of interest to me. I have money enough. Also, things can’t be overblown as they may leak. I offer that for the next three months you will be my so-called secret mistress. Take it easy. All state exams pass thru our system,» said the reply dating March 10th. The address of replier was firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two weeks later, we met the man, using a telephone call card and posing as Margus Tamm, in a bar at central Tartu. Faced with Heleri (journalist Helen Mihelson – edit) there sat a sturdy bald middle-aged man. Taking off his light blue cap, he raised his voice to tell a waitress: «Hey you, bring me the coffee!»
What he did not notice was another Postimees journalist seated at next table. The journalistic experiment was on, full blast. This was the prior oral advice by a Central Criminal Police investigator: be there and try to get what is happening.
On this initial encounter, the «Margus Tamm» was visibly nervous and kept looking down. Heleri had lots of questions. Who is he? «I am Mister X.»
Is he often meeting girls for this reason? Allegedly, not every day. «I have never done this much at all. Cannot do on large scale, it would raise suspicions,» he explained.
At that moment, he proceeded to encourage Heleri morally, as if. He said he understood the girl’s nervousness and promised that everything was possible – Heleri ought to be his lover till she graduates from gymnasium. Longer, if so desired. «But you may run out of motivation,» assumed the man.
Thereafter, he proceeded to explain how the exam results would be altered. «It would be reasonable to alter some 20 points, then no-one will notice,» said he, urging Heleri to also study a bit so the teachers would not notice the trick. Then, he repeatedly assured Heleri that nobody would check it out and though there would be a trace left, no-one would connect the dots. «Piece of cake,» he claimed.
How does he gain access to exams data? He has an IT-firm, the man said, which administrates the systems where exam results pass through. Detecting that Heleri was troubled, he proceeded to soothe her: nothing would happen and, in the systems, errors are constantly committed while entering the results. «Drink your cider, life will become much rosier,» he advised.
In bed, ten times
After the encounter of about half hour, we left him in the company of his Caesar salad. In less than 20 minutes, his e-mail popped in our mailbox. «When you are fed up clubbing, come continue at my place. 2 kilometres from Atlantis [a night club – edit]. Well let me know, call or write. The offer is valid till 3 at night i.e. I’m up late anyhow on Saturday.» A while later, as we were already on our way back to Tallinn, a SMS followed so Heleri would not forget the offer.
Three days later, we requested another meeting. «Let’s agree upon some number of encounters, say 10. On Friday would be the first encounter. Come to Tartu in the evening,» he replied. We asked that he would show Heleri how he would alter the examination results.
At this meeting we’d disclose our cards – as we decided at Postimees. The meeting, in a hotel probably, would not proceed further from the lobby, was out main requirement. At the proposal of «Margus Tamm», we rather met in a restaurant in central Tartu. Whatever happened at the table was followed by two photographers, from a few metres.
This time, «Margus Tamm» was a lot more talkative. In his own words, he just came from a colleague’s 71st birthday at the physics institute. This was the first real piece of information pointing towards his person.
Unaware of that, of course, he talked at length about planes in the light of the tragic accident in the Alps a few days before. What followed was a new an unexpected display of openness – about how he used to teach physics, works at the university and is doing his doctorate, having also studied plasma physics in Munich.
Alas, the man did not have the computer along, to demonstrate altering the exam results. Only in the intranet at the education ministry at Munga St would he have access to state exams system. «But I can show you the university system,» promised the man. «Dou you have somebody you know who studies at the university? Let’s look at their data.»
This, said he, he would be able to show in his laptop located at the motel he stays at in Tartu (his home, he said, was actually outside of town). «You might come there,» suggested the man.
He said it would be nice to watch football together – in any minute, the European Championships qualifier between Estonia and Switzerland was about to begin. «Football, they say, is better than one certain thing [than sex, goes the song by Smilers – edit].» Heleri parried she did not like football. «We may do something else then,» the man suggested, laughing.
«I will examine you,» he said a moment later, measuring Heleri with his eyes. «Let’s take these three or four or five mantles off of you.»
Heleri asked if he had clients enough. «Haven’t heard, haven’t seen,» the man remained mysterious.
That instant, the conversation was interrupted by camera crew, asking how the man would call the suggestion just made to the lady. «Well dinner you know,» replied the man, obviously surprised. A few minutes later, without providing honest answers, he fled the cameras into the darkness.
The day after, following searches in the Internet, turned out in real life the Mr X was Fred, an IT-entrepreneur and research fellow at University of Tartu. By then, the ad promising improvement of state exam results was removed from the portal. As was Fred’s CV from University of Tartu website where it did reappear, though, in a few days.