A tutor accused of helping three students change their grades at Corona Del Mar High School posted $200,000 bail, forcing the postponement Wednesday of his arraignment on felony charges.
Timothy Lance Lai, 29, was released from custody about 11:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon, who had been prepared to argue today for a higher bail.
Lai, who was arrested Monday afternoon at Los Angeles International Airport, is now scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 4, most likely at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach, Zimmon said.
Investigators had been unable to locate Lai since reports surfaced late last year of the cheating scandal, which led to 11 students being forced out. Six of the students enrolled in schools elsewhere and five were transferred within the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
Newport Beach police were tipped off that Lai was returning to the United States and were waiting with handcuffs at the airport.
Lai is charged with helping three students cheat and putting “key- logging” software on at least two computers, Zimmon said The investigation is ongoing and there could be more charges, Zimmon said.
Newport-Mesa Unified School District board member Katrina Foley said Monday she was pleased to hear the defendant was in custody.
“The students had to deal with the consequences, but he’s the alleged mastermind of what I think is tragic for the students, and hopefully now he’ll be held accountable too,” Foley said.
Foley pointed out Lai had tutored students at many other area schools.
“We don’t know the number (of students affected) because he was tutoring at Mater Dei” and elsewhere, Foley said. “There’s probably hundreds of kids affected by this individual.”
Between April 1 and June 14, 2013, Lai allegedly accessed the school’s computer records with passwords obtained from the keylogging devices and changed the grades of three students taught by two teachers, Zimmon said.
One of the teachers realized the grades had been changed and contacted school administrators on June 14, 2013, and they, in turn, called police, Zimmon said.
Investigators found another keylogging device on a third teacher’s computer in December 2013, according to Zimmon.
Lai could face up to five years and eight months in custody if convicted of one count of second-degree commercial burglary and four counts of computer access fraud.
—City News Service
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