Police ask FBI for help in Corona del Mar High cheating case

A view of Corona del Mar High School.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Newport Beach police detectives have enlisted the help of an FBI lab in their ongoing investigation into the Corona del Mar High School cheating scandal.

Police asked federal agents for assistance investigating private tutor Timothy Lance Lai, who school officials say masterminded a scheme in which a dozen students obtained the passwords and log-on information of teachers and hacked into the district computer system to change grades and access exams.

The students, 11 of whom were expelled from the high school last week, allegedly attached keylogging devices to the back of several teachers’ computers to boost grades and access English, science and history exams, the Daily Pilot reported.

Lai, who is wanted for questioning, has not yet been located.


On Dec. 18, police seized 24 pieces of evidence, including several electronic devices and a cellphone, after searching the 28-year-old tutor’s Irvine home, according to a search warrant.

In the last two weeks, the electronic evidence was turned over to the Orange County Regional Forensics Laboratory, an FBI lab in Orange, police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella confirmed Monday.

Police often enlist the help of specialists from the forensics laboratory to make electronic evidence readable for investigators, Manzella said.

When the analysis is complete, detectives will take their case to the district attorney’s office and prosecutors will decide whether to file charges against the tutor, she said.


Manzella couldn’t confirm how long the FBI lab will take to process the evidence.

In the meantime, Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials continue to review 52,000 grades to determine how many may have been altered in the scheme.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN


Hannah Fry is a Times Community News staff writer.