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Home blog In the News 16 Additional Felony Charges Filed Against Corona del Mar High School Tutor in Grade-Changing Scandal

16 Additional Felony Charges Filed Against Corona del Mar High School Tutor in Grade-Changing Scandal

By Michael Guisti on March 24, 2015

Newport Beach, CA — You may heard the term “discovery” used in connection with court proceedings. Discovery broadly covers the work done between a defendant’s arraignment and the beginning of a trial. During this period both the prosecution and defense build up their cases and communicate about the evidence they plan to use. This time is particularly crucial because this is when prosecutors are required to hand over any exculpatory evidence to the defense.

On Friday, additional charges were filed against Timothy Lance Lai, the tutor who has been accused of helping students change their grades at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach. Previously, Lai had been charged with five felonies, including second-degree burglary, computer access and fraud. Prosecutors have now added 16 more charges of felony computer access and fraud, meaning that if he is found guilty, Lai could serve up to 16 years and 4 months in prison. Lai has pleaded not guilty to these new charges, just as he pleaded not guilty to the initial charges in November.

According to prosecutors, Lai broke into a building at the school and planted a keystroke logging device on a computer in order to obtain a teacher’s login credentials. He then allegedly used that information to access the school’s grading system at least 16 times between January and June of 2013. In addition to the charges against Lai, the scandal has led to the expulsion of 11 students. Lai’s attorney said that he was not surprised by the new charges and that he was still working on discovery for the case.

Although prosecutors and defense attorneys have adversarial roles in the courthouse, there are times in which they work together. During the discovery phase of the trial, both sides share the evidence which they plan to present in court. As noted above, this is when prosecutors are required to hand over any evidence they have that is favorable to the defendant.

This is why it is so important for everyone who has been accused of a crime to have legal representation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can go a long way towards helping you deal with prosecutors and law enforcement.

At the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti, we’ve been defending clients across Southern California for over 16 years. We’re here to put our years of training and experience to work to help you have criminal charges reduced or dismissed in local state and federal courthouses. Over the years, we’ve successfully defended clients against charges like murder, theft, fraud, domestic violence, and sexual assault.

We know how difficult it can be to deal with criminal accusations. The rest of your life won’t stand still while you try to sort out your legal issues either. If you come to our firm, a seasoned defense lawyer can help you attend to your legal woes while you try to keep everything else on track.

As part of Orange County’s legal community, we’ve built strong working relationships with judges, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors that can help us better defend our clients. We have offices in Santa Ana, Irvine, Newport Beach, and Garden Grove and offer foreign language assistance as needed.

So if you’ve been charged with a crime in Orange County, call the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti at (714) 707-2797 for a free consultation.


Emery, Sean. “Ex-tutor in Corona del Mar grade-changing scheme charged with 16 additional felonies.” http://www.ocregister.com/articles/lai-654957-felony-school.html. Orange County Register. 20 March 2015.

Fry, Hannah. “Tutor accused of hacking school computers faces 16 more felony charges.” http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-tutor-hacking-grades-more-charges-20150322-story.html. Los Angeles Times. 22 March 2015.

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