Police arrest tutor in Corona del Mar High cheating scandal

The private tutor who allegedly assisted Corona del Mar High School students in a grade-fixing scheme was arrested when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Monday afternoon, authorities said.

Timothy Lance Lai, 29, is charged with one felony count of second degree commercial burglary and four felony counts of computer access and fraud, according to the Orange County District Atty.'s Office.


If convicted, Lai faces a maximum of five years and eight months in jail, according to a news release from the D.A.

Lai, a former Irvine resident, is accused of breaking into the high school to place a keylogging devices, which track keystrokes, on the backs of teachers' computers, to swipe logins and passwords.


Lai allegedly changed three students' grades from two different teachers using the recorded information, police said.

He also provided students with English, science and history exams, some at the honors and Advanced Placement levels, school officials have asserted.

In June 2013, a teacher discovered that student grades had been changed and contacted the school administrators.

The district and police launched an investigation, but couldn't identify the tutor.


Then, in December, school officials discovered another keylogging device on a third teacher's computer. CdM administrators were able to obtain Lai's name through student interviews.

Police believe Lai fled the country after the investigation began in December. Police did not release how they knew Lai was going to be at the airport or where he was arriving from Monday afternoon.

"We have not had any contact with him before today," said Newport Beach police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

Newport Beach detectives searched Lai's car and home in Irvine after news of the cheating broke in December.

Authorities seized four USB thumb drives, several electronic devices, a cell phone, a notepad bearing students names, a notebook containing multiple tests with a female student's name written on it, schoolwork, routers, as well as several exams, according to the property report attached to the search warrant.

Eleven students were expelled from the high school in January in the aftermath of the scandal.

Prosecutors plan to request that he be held on $200,000 bail at his arraignment in Santa Ana Jail. The time and date of the arraignment has not yet been determined.