Teen Faces 38 Years In Prison For Hacking School Computers
According to Orange County Superior Court documents, Omar Khan, 18, of Coto de Caza, Calif., a senior at Tesoro High School in Orange County, was charged on Tuesday with a total of 69 felony counts that include second degree burglary, identity theft, computer access and fraud, removing and secreting a public record, and altering and falsifying a public record.
Khan was arrested on Tuesday and is being held on $50,000 bail. If convicted, Khan faces up to 38 years in prison. Both Khan and Singh were set to graduate Tesoro High School on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, co-defendant Tanvir Singh, also 18, of Ladera Ranch, Calif., was charged with four counts that include conspiracy, burglary, computer fraud and altering a public record when he allegedly tried to break into a classroom to steal the answers to a test before an exam. Unlike Khan, Singh could potentially receive a three-year prison sentence if found guilty.
According to the Orange County District Attorney and the Orange County Sheriff's Department, the duo conducted most of their hacking and theft activities between January and May of this year. During that time, Khan broke into the school on numerous occasions at night and on weekends using a stolen master key. He then allegedly attempted to steal his teachers' login credentials and passwords to change his C, D and F grades to As and Bs. Khan also allegedly planted spyware on his teachers computers to access the school network remotely.
In addition to changing his own grades, Khan is accused of altering the grades of 12 other students.
Meanwhile, Singh also was accused of conspiring with Khan in an unsuccessful attempt to break into the school to steal an exam.
The two young men exchanged a series of text messages on May 19, in which they allegedly plotted to break into a teacher's classroom with the intention to commit "larceny and unlawful access of a computer network" and to "steal, remove and secrete a public record." The transcript of the text messages are detailed in the Orange County Superior Court documents.
Suspicions were raised after Khan requested a school transcript in order to appeal a denial of admission to the University of California for the fall semester. School administrators got wind of the discrepancy of Khan's grades and subsequently initiated an investigation, which revealed that Khan had original tests, test questions and answers and copies of his altered grades.
Singh's attorney, Merlin Stapleton, said in The Orange County Register report, that his client's charges were too severe.
"This is certainly not the first time we've heard of a kid cheating," Stapleton told The Register. "Sometimes they do these types of things simply to see if they can. The only thing that makes this case different is the technology used."
A spokesperson for the Orange County District Attorney's office told ChannelWeb that the 38-year prison sentence was the maximum that Khan could receive, but that there was a possibility that his sentence could be reduced due to the fact that the case was still under investigation.
Meanwhile, Khan's potential sentence reflected not so much the fact that he cheated on tests, but rather the severity of his alleged felonies, such as identity theft and computer fraud, the spokesperson said.
Both Khan's and Singh's arraignment were continued to July 8 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.