Prosecutors charge 15 more suspects in DVC grade-changing scam

Prosecutors plan to charge 15 more people Thursday in connection with the alleged Diablo Valley College grade changing scam, including one believed to have been involved in carrying out thefraud, Contra Costa prosecutor Dodie Katague said today.

The remaining 14 new defendants allegedly paid to have their transcripts doctored.

The new charges will bring the total number of defendants in the case to 49.

Katague said he plans to release information about the new charges after they are officially filed Thursday.

So far two of the alleged masterminds in the scam have made deals with prosecutors in exchange for reduced sentences.

On Monday, Jeremy Tato, a 26-year-old Pittsburg resident, pleaded no contest to eight felony counts of computer fraud for allegedly accessing the Pleasant Hill community college's admissions office computer and improving students' grades in exchange for money.

Tato was originally charged with 14 felony counts of computer fraud and could have faced up to 12 years in prison. Instead, he will serve one year in county jail and three years formal probation, Katague said.

Tato also agreed to pay a restitution fine that has yet to be determined and to fully cooperate with the Contra Costa Community College District and the Contra Costa District Attorney's office, Katague said.

Julian Revilleza, also a 26-year-old Pittsburg resident, pleaded guilty to 15 felony counts of computer fraud on Sept. 25, Katague said.

Revilleza was originally charged with 23 felony counts of computer fraud and could have faced as many as 17 years in state prison for his role in the alleged scam. Instead he will serve one year in county jail in exchange for his full cooperation with prosecutors and the college district.

He also received a four-year state prison sentence that was suspended.

According to Katague, the fraud began in 2001 when a student named Ronald Nixon, who was working in the college's admissions office, allegedly accessed the school's computer and changed his grades and those of four other students.

Revilleza, who was also a student employee in the school's admission's office, allegedly began accessing the computer in 2004 independently from Nixon and changed students' grades in exchange for money.

He then allegedly hired Tato to fulfill grade change orders after leaving DVC to go to San Diego State University, Katague said.

Meanwhile, in 2005, Erick Martinez allegedly changed his grades and the grades of two other students, apparently in a separate operation from both Nixon and Revilleza. Martinez, a Guatemalan immigrant who was granted asylum in the United States, did not receive money for the alleged grade changes, Katague said.

Martinez worked in the admissions office until the day the alleged fraud was discovered. It was a grade he had allegedly given himself for a class he had dropped that sparked the professor's suspicions and ultimately

led to the college district's yearlong investigation, according to Katague.

The remaining suspects are believed to have paid from $200 up to $4,000 to have their transcripts improved. Those students and former students each face only one felony count of fraud, Katague said.

Many of those students allegedly used their fraudulent transcripts to transfer to prestigious four-year colleges and universities, including University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; San Diego State University; California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; San Jose State University and San Francisco State University, according to Katague.

It is estimated that between 2001, when the first grades were changed, and 2006, when the alleged changes were discovered, more than 400 grades were falsely improved, Katague said.

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