Case # 14HF2720
Date: August 4, 2015
TUTOR CONVICTED AND SENTENCED FOR ILLEGALLY CHANGING STUDENT GRADES AT CORONA DEL MAR HIGH SCHOOL
*Defendant fled the country during the investigation
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A tutor was convicted and sentenced today for illegally changing grades of students at Corona Del Mar High School (CDMHS) during the 2012 and 2013 school year. Timothy Lance Lai, 29, pleaded guilty to a court offer to 20 felony counts of computer access and fraud and one felony count of second degree commercial burglary. He was sentenced to one year in jail and five years formal probation over the objection of the People.
At the time of the crimes, Lai was a private tutor for students who attended CDMHS. In 2013, Lai broke into Corona Del Mar High School and inserted a USB device into a teacher’s computer that was able to record the teacher’s keystrokes.
Between Jan. 25, 2013, and June 14, 2013, Lai accessed the school’s network using the information from recorded keystrokes and changed the grades of students on 19 separate occasions. Between Dec. 1, 2013, and Dec. 17, 2013, Lai copied login information for a CDMHS teacher that gave him access to the school grading program.
On June 14, 2013, one of the teachers discovered that grades for students had been changed and contacted school administrators. In December 2013, another USB device was discovered on a third teacher’s computer. The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) was contacted and investigated this case.
Shortly after the investigation began, the defendant fled the country. NBPD arrested the defendant when he returned to the United States at Los Angeles International Airport on Oct. 6, 2014.
At the sentencing today, the principal of CDMHS delivered an impact statement to the court pursuant to Marsy’s law, and said in part, “Mr. Lai’s unethical conduct caused harm to the parents and students who had hired Mr. Lai. Lives were shaken when they found out the person they trusted to help their student to improve academically, undermined them and betrayed them by his leadership role in the cheating scandal.” She went on to say, “This incident created such a newsworthy controversy, that the entire community was harmed by the media attention and the disruption that occurred as a result of the cheating scandal. This damaged the academic integrity of CDM and devalued the perception of the CDM diploma.”
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon of the Special Prosecutions Unit is prosecuted this case.