A tutor accused of helping three students hack into a computer system to inflate their grades at Corona Del Mar High School pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

Timothy Lance Lai, 29, is charged one count of second-degree commercial burglary and four counts of computer access fraud and faces up to five years and eight months in prison if convicted. Eleven students were expelled in the cheating scandal.

Lai initially fled the country but was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport last month. He was released after posting $200,000 bail and is due back in court Jan. 9 for a pretrial hearing, according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Brock Zimmon.

Six of 11 students expelled enrolled in other schools, and five others were transferred within the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

Lai is charged with using a “key-logging” device on at least two computers, Zimmon said, adding that other charges could be added, Zimmon said.

Between April 1 and June 14, 2013, Lai allegedly accessed the school’s computer records with passwords obtained from 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 notified school administrators, who reported it to police, Zimmon said.

Investigators found another keylogging device on a third teacher’s computer in December 2013, according to Zimmon.

City News Service

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