An 'A' in computer science, 'F' in citizenship

Two charged in alleged grade-changing hack

Two California men could face federal prison time following their indictments in connection with an alleged scheme to change course grades held in a computer at California State University, Fresno. A team of FBI agents and Fresno Police Department officers as well as other federal and state law enforcement members of the bureau's Cyber Crimes Task Force conducted the investigation.

The two men, John Escalera, 29, of Fresno and Gustavo Razo Jr., 28, of Pasenda, Calif., face charges of conspiracy, honest services wire fraud, unauthorized access of a computer and identity theft, according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office for California's Eastern District.

Initial efforts to contact the two men or their attorneys today were unsuccessful.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stanley A. Boone of the Justice Department is prosecuting the case. He stated via a press release that Escalera, a student and employee of Fresno State, hacked into the university's computer system to access the names and passwords of employees who held the authority to change grades.

'After acquiring this data and using a software program which deciphered user names and passwords, Escalara was able to acquire the actual user names and accompanying passwords,' according to the federal allegations that the grand jury upheld.

Armed with this information, Escalera entered the university's computer system and made grade changes for himself and a friend, Razo, Justice said. Razo paid Escalera for making the grade change, according to the Justice allegations.

Each of the two men face a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine, Justice said.

Federal judges usually assess such penalties according to sentencing guidelines that take into account various factors related to the severity of the offense as well as additional sentencing considerations mandated by law.

Justice cybercrime prosecution specialists, who now number more than 200 attorneys, have worked with legal scholars and technical specialists to produce a series of increasingly sophisticated guides to the various phases of handling such cases.

The latest such manual, titled Prosecuting Computer Crimes, came from the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the department's criminal division in February.

Editor-in-chief Scott Eltringham and his fellow writers covered topics ranging from advice for prosecutors on how to handle evidence at electronic crime scenes to methods for using various federal laws that impose criminal penalties on online wrongdoing.

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