by Cyrus Farivar - Oct 7 2014, 10:06am CDT
Timothy Lance Lai, a Southern California tutor accused of orchestrating a group of Corona del Mar High School students to install keyloggers on their teachers’ computers, has finally been arrested after more than eight months of being on the lam. Lai's keylogging ring aimed to alter student grades at the school, but he is now being held at the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County.
Lai was arrested late Monday after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, and he was promptly charged with one felony count of second degree commercial burglary and four felony counts of computer access and fraud, according to the Newport Beach Police Department. The police also noted that if Lai is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of five years and eight months in jail.
Previously, Lai was wanted as a person of interest by local police but had not been formally charged with a crime. There also wasn't a warrant for his arrest. The police did execute a search on Lai's home in December 2013, seizing a number of items, including hard drives, flash drives, and school materials.
The keylogging ring is believed to have taken place between April and June 2013, and it eventually resulted in the expulsion of 11 students in January 2014. Six of those students already left the district by the time their expulsion was ordered, but five had transferred to another local school. Two of the 11 have since graduated high school.
Jane Garland, Newport-Mesa Unified School District's former head of discipline who resigned in protest over what she believed was a botched handling of the situation, told Ars in May 2014 that she believed the school district was not interested in fully investigating how deep the keylogging ring went. Garland added that the district used a fairly broad catch-all term as a way to remove the students.
"We never had anything that was quite like this," she said. "This was not even an expellable offense. The 'overarching' blanket offense that you can use is if the child is a danger to other children or adults. My feeling was that these kids are not a threat to anyone. They used that ‘overarching expellable danger’ to put them out of school."
"As far as I'm concerned, they just wanted to put it behind us and make everyone think Corona del Mar High School is a great school," she continued. "I've been doing this for 43 years. I was an advocate for children in Washington, DC. This is a blatant issue of people wanting to close something down before investigating it. If they had investigated it they would have found quite a mess."