Orange County tutor arrested, charged with hacking school computer to change student grades

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SANTA ANA, California — A private tutor who fled the country after allegedly hacking a Southern California high school computer and changing student grades was arrested and charged Monday, authorities said.

Timothy Lance Lai, 29, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport, according to a statement from the Orange County district attorney's office.

DA spokeswoman Susan Schroeder said she did not immediately know whether Lai had obtained an attorney.

Details of his arrest also were not immediately available.

Lai was to be booked at the Newport Beach police jail facility Monday and transferred to the Orange County jail, police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella said Monday night.

A phone number for a Timothy L. Lai in Irvine was busy Monday evening.

Lai vanished in December as authorities were investigating a scheme to hack computers at Corona Del Mar High School to steal exams and change grades.

Lai was a private tutor who may have worked with as many as 150 students at the school, which is located in a wealthy coastal area of Orange County where pressure to get into Ivy League schools is intense.

Prosecutors contend that between April 1, 2013, and June 14, 2013, Lai broke into the school and used keylogging devices to record the keystrokes from computers, which allowed him to obtain passwords and access the school computer system.

He changed the grades of three students from two different teachers, prosecutors allege.

A teacher later discovered the changes and contacted school administrators.

In the wake of the scandal, 11 students who were also allegedly involved in hacking the system were expelled from the school.

Lai was charged Monday with one felony count of second-degree commercial burglary and four felony counts of computer access and fraud.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years, eight months in jail.

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