Four indicted in grade-changing scheme

March 3, 2010 4:15:53 PM PST
Investigators say it was a high tech scheme to change grades and attendance records. Now four former high school students face big consequences -- potentially life in prison -- for taking control of district computers. We first told you about this investigation back in 2008, a group of students who somehow cracked into computers at high schools in Fort Bend County. Some of those students have now been indicted and we're learning how the alleged scheme was carried out.

This is a story we've been following now for nearly two years. Just this week the suspects were indicted. We can tell you more now about who is alleged to have participated and how far reaching this operation supposedly was.

The four students are accused of stealing computers from four different campuses -- Hightower, Bush, Elkins and Clements high schools -- and loading them with key logging and malicious software before returning them.

Fort Bend County Assistant District Attorney Scott Carpenter said, "These kids were extremely sophisticated in terms of their knowledge of computers, their knowledge of software."

Investigators say the teens from November 2007 through May 2008 hacked into the Fort Bend ISD computer system, changing grades and attendance records to benefit not just themselves but dozens of their friends.

"I've never seen anything like it before," Carpenter said.

Indicted are Vincent Lee Paresa, Ravi Thakral, Francis Nwajei and Rishab Verma. All are now 19. At the time, though, Persa and Thakral attended Bush, Nwajei went to Elkins and Verma was a student at Hightower.

Prosecutors say each of the four indicted have confessed to some level of involvement in this scheme. They tell us also that Fort Bend ISD spent nearly $200,000 repairing its computer systems and augmenting computer security.

None of the accused have yet been arrested. At Vincent Paresa's home, his father answered the door.

"He was involved in some stuff back then, but we'll have to straighten that out with the courts," Don Paresa said.

Each of the defendants now faces four felony charges, including conspiracy to commit a computer breach, and engaging in organized crime. If convicted, they could be sent to prison for life. Eight other juveniles may also have been involved. Authorities are looking still at whether to charge them.


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