Newport-Mesa Unified District trustees voted to expel 11 students accused of participating in a detailed cheating scheme at Corona del Mar High School. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / January 29, 2014)

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"This isn't run-of-the-mill cheating," she said. "This was premeditated, sophisticated and ongoing."

Detailed Cheating Scheme

On Dec. 17, the district confirmed that roughly a dozen students attached a keylogger to several teachers' computers to swipe logins and passwords, allegedly with the help of a private tutor.

With the recorded information, the students allegedly changed grades and accessed English, science and history exams, some at the honors and Advanced Placement levels.

The next day, Newport Beach detectives searched the Irvine home and car of Timothy Lance Lai, 28, the tutor accused of providing the students with the keyloggers and instructing them on how to use the devices to access password-protected accounts.

Authorities seized four USB thumb drives, several electronic devices, a cell phone, a notepad bearing student names, a notebook containing multiple tests with a female student's name written on it, schoolwork, routers, an algebra quiz, a math problem packet, a pre-calculus test and a pre-algebra assignment, according to the property report.

While the cheating was confirmed by district officials in December, a search warrant and affidavit, obtained from the Orange County Superior Court, confirm that the situation began as early as April 2013.

The 16-page search warrant and affidavit by Det. David Syvock details how Newport Beach police and school officials began investigating the alleged cheating incident in June 2013.

On June 18, a science teacher notified CdM administrators that she suspected someone had accessed her computer and changed students' grades, according to the affidavit. Officials determined that the grades were altered from a remote computer four days earlier, the affidavit said.

During an internal review, Vladimir Anderson, the school's resource officer, and school administrators identified two female students whose grades they believed had been changed.

One of the two students allegedly told Anderson that her friend installed on the back of a teacher's computer a device that she later removed after attaining the information needed to remotely access the school's grading database.

About a week after the student's final exam, she checked her grade and saw that it was changed from a C to a B, the affidavit said.

When school officials caught on, the student allegedly responsible for placing the keylogging device instructed her friend to take the blame, according to the affidavit.

She also stated, according to the court papers, that her friend had told her she received a call from her tutor instructing the girls not to identify him.

When Anderson attempted to obtain the tutor's name from the female student, the girl's mother informed him that they had retained an attorney and declined to make a statement, the papers say.

The girls were suspended from CdM and the tutor was never identified. District officials decline to specify whether the girls were punished further, citing student confidentiality laws.

"Due to the lack of information to identify the tutor, the criminal investigation was closed," Syvok wrote in the affidavit.

Tutor Provides Missing Link

Just as the case began to go cold after six months of inactivity, information surfaced that shed more light on the scheme.

In December, an assistant principal contacted Anderson about an 11th-grade student.