Suspects accused of felony fraud and conspiracy in plot to pay for better marks at Diablo Valley College
Contra Costa County prosecutors have charged 34 current and former Diablo Valley College students with felony fraud and conspiracy in a cash-for-grades scheme that could imprison some for years.
Police were arresting suspects across California, and a number were in custody at County Jail in Martinez.
Julian Revilleza, who investigators said was a ringleader, was charged with 23 felonies and could be sentenced to nearly 70 years in prison if convicted.
He was not in custody Tuesday afternoon, but his bail was set at $575,000. Revilleza is believed to be a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The ringleaders took in thousands of dollars and had a constant flow of customers, documents show.
Prosecutors say students met with ringleaders in malls, gyms and supermarkets, handing over hundreds of dollars in plain white envelopes, according to criminal complaints filed this week.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the charges but released a written statement outlining the allegations. Court proceedings for some of the suspects are due to begin this morning in Martinez
DVC administrators said Tuesday that they have finished their own in-depth audit of the scandal and sent corrected transcripts to every university that accepted one of the implicated students. The school also has rescinded several DVC degrees and certificates.
"This is what we've been working toward," said Helen Benjamin, chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District, who noted
DVC investigators found unauthorized grade changes dating to 2000, with hundreds of dollars paid for each alteration. None of the charges referred to the changes made before 2001.
The charges illustrate the wide-ranging nature of the scandal, which has embarrassed the college and harmed its reputation among university registrars and regional accreditors. According to the complaints, students used the falsified transcripts to transfer to universities including UC Berkeley, UC Davis and San Francisco State.
Court documents also revealed what was, at times, a cloak-and-dagger operation and how far some students were willing to go to ensure they would transfer to a four-year university.
One man, now a student at San Francisco State, used his credit card to withdraw $4,000 in cash to pay a suspected ringleader, Francis Antonio, for at least 15 grade changes, prosecutors said.
Documents also show that many of the suspects lied to investigators after the scheme was uncovered in January 2006. According to the complaints, in one case "Revilleza told them to lie to the police when they went in for their interview and make up a story about being approached by a male in the library."
Revilleza was not in custody Tuesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment. Several other accused students did not return phone calls Tuesday or declined jailhouse interviews.
Former student Tejvinder Virk, who was charged, "will pay me either Friday or Saturday," Revilleza reportedly wrote to another suspect, Jeremy Tato, in February 2006. "More lined up for you on Thursday."
Other accusations show that Revilleza and others met with students at stores and a gym to offer grade changes for hundreds of dollars. In some cases, the organizers allowed students to pay in installments.
The long-running plot, revealed by the Times in January, was fostered by the college's wide-open grade-management system. Nearly 90 people, including student employees, were authorized to change grades at DVC and the district's other two colleges, Contra Costa and Los Medanos.
Investigators discovered that a handful of Los Medanos grades had been changed from DVC computers. Some of the changes were made by students who were not authorized to alter transcripts but secretly used the computers of those who were allowed to change grades.
After the discovery of the plot, district leaders quickly cut the number of authorized users to 11. But administrators said Tuesday that one of those 11 people was recently discovered altering her grades at Contra Costa College and had been fired.
Officials at several universities said Tuesday that they had received corrected DVC transcripts and were asking students to explain the changes. Both San Francisco State and UC Davis received five corrections, representatives said.
At UC Davis, three of the suspects had been admitted recently for the upcoming fall semester, said Sue Wilbur, director of undergraduate admissions for the 10-campus UC system. A total of 135 DVC students have announced plans to attend the Davis campus next year.
"If the students are unable to explain to our satisfaction, their offers of admission will be rescinded," Wilbur said.
The names, ages, hometowns and current school, if known, of 34 current and former DVC students charged with felonies: