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D.A. to weigh criminal charges in alleged high school cheating scheme

D.A. to weigh criminal charges in alleged high school cheating scheme
Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach is at the epicenter of a cheating case.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County prosecutors will consider filing criminal charges against 11 former Corona del Mar High School students and a tutor accused in an alleged cheating scheme in which grades were altered and class exams accessed.

Newport Beach police investigated the alleged scheme, which used log-in names and passwords stolen from teachers’ computers, and will forward their evidence to the Orange County district attorney’s office.

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All 11 students eventually signed expulsion agreements that banished them from the high school but allowed them to transfer to other campuses in the Newport-Mesa Unified School district.

Meanwhile, the 28-year-old tutor, Timothy Lai, has gone missing, authorities said.

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Police said they searched Lai’s Irvine home and confiscated electronic devices, cellphones and notebooks but have been unable to locate the man.

Students’ involvement in the alleged scheme ranged from knowing that cheating was taking place and not reporting it to actually stealing login information, district officials have said.

With the information, students changed grades and accessed exams, some at the honors and advanced placement levels, officials said.

District officials have spent the last several months investigating 52,000 grade changes made in the last year that might indicate that even more students were involved in the cheating.

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The district also altered its own grading system to alert teachers when any student’s grade is changed in the computer, officials said.

Five students filed an appeal with the Orange County Department of Education in February, alleging that their signed agreements were coerced.

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hannah.fry@latimes.com


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