FBI aids high school cheating investigation

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 the federal agents for assistance in investigating the private tutor who allegedly helped a dozen students hack into the school computers to access tests and change grades.

The students, 11 of whom were expelled from the high school last week, supposedly attached keylogging devices — allegedly provided by tutor Timothy Lance Lai — to the backs of several teachers' computers to boost grades and access English, science and history exams.

Lai is wanted for questioning.

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

Within the past 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, which will decide whether to file charges against the tutor, she said.

Manzella said she couldn't confirm how much time the FBI lab needs 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 grade-changing scheme.

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