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Indian-American teens accused of hacking plead not guilty

July 31, 2008 12:55 IST

Two Indian-American teens charged with combined 73 felony counts for allegedly hacking school computers -- for stealing tests and changing grades -- have pleaded not guilty at a court in southern California.

If convicted, Omar Khan, 18, faces decades in prison while his school mate Tanvir Singh could get three years behind bars.

County prosecutors allege that the two students broke into their Tesoro High School to steal tests and change their own and others' grades on the school computer network.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregory Jones set a pretrial hearing for September 16 after the duo pleaded not guilty at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

Khan, who allegedly broke into the Las Flores high school at least six times between January and May, is charged with 34 counts of altering a public record, 11 counts of stealing and secreting a public record, seven counts of computer access and fraud.

He has also been charged with six counts of burglary, four identity theft charges, three counts of altering a book of records, two counts of receiving stolen property and one count each of conspiracy and attempted altering of a public record.

Singh, 18, allegedly broke into the school at least once and was charged with four felony counts of burglary, computer access and fraud.

Using passwords stolen from teachers, Khan allegedly hacked into computers and changed test scores. He also allegedly installed software so he could access the system from other locations.

Though he is accused primarily of changing his own grades, prosecutors allege that Khan also altered the grades of 12 other students.

After being caught cheating on an English test on April 18 and given a failing grade, Khan broke into the Assistant Principal's locked office to steal the test back and conceal evidence that he had cheated, prosecutors said.

In his last known burglary attempt in May, Khan plotted with his friend, Singh, to steal a copy of a test that was to be administered the following day, authorities said. The pair were caught by a night custodian as they were accessing a school computer.

The Orange County District Attorney's Office still is investigating whether more students were involved, and more arrests could be made, said spokeswoman Susan Schroeder.

Meenakshi Ganjoo in Silicon Valley
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