Tutor Arrested in Grade-Changing Scheme - NBC Southern California

Tutor Arrested in Grade-Changing Scheme

The former private tutor allegedly accessed records after installing keystroke-skimming devices on teachers' computers.

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    Tutor Arrested in Grade-Changing Scheme
    CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
    Timothy Lai, 20, was arrested by Newport Beach Police detectives at Los Angeles International Airport Oct. 6,2014. Lai has been charged in connection with an illegal grade-changing scheme at Corona Del Mar High School. Photo by Richard Koehler/Contributing Photographer

    A former private tutor for students at Corona Del Mar High School has been charged with illegally accessing the school’s networks to change client’s grades.

    Timothy Lance Lai, 29, allegedly accessed the Newport Beach school's records during the 2013 spring semester using a USB device plugged into teachers’ computers.

    The device recorded the keystrokes made on the computers, which he was able to use to learn passwords and then access files to change the grades of three students from two different teachers, investigators said in a statement.

    It was not immediately disclosed how Lai got access to the teacher's computers or if he was assisted in installing the devices.

    At the end of the school year, one of the teachers reached out to administrators after discovering the grades were not the ones originally entered. An investigation found that at least three teachers were affected.

    Lai has been charged with one felony count of commercial burglary and four felony counts of computer access and fraud, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said.

    When the investigation began, Lai left the country. He was arrested Monday at LAX by Newport Beach police when he returned to Southern California.

    Newport-Mesa Unified School Board member Katrina Foley said she was pleased to hear the news.

    "The students had to deal with the consequences, but he's the alleged mastermind of what I think is tragic for the students, and hopefully now he'll be held accountable too," Foley said.

    Foley pointed out Lai had tutored students at many other area schools.

    If convicted, he faces more than five years in jail.

    City News Service contributed to this report.

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