PA Mom Hacked School Computers to Change Kids' Grades, Police Say

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on July 23, 2012 6:45 AM

A Pennsylvania mom changed grades on her kids' official school records by hacking into the school's computer system with stolen passwords, investigators say.

Catherine Venusto, 45, of New Tripoli, Pa., should get an "A" for effort, but an "F" for poor execution of her alleged crime. She faces six felony charges for unlawful use of a computer, computer trespassing, and altering data, ABC News reports.

Venusto allegedly went to great lengths to change grades for her daughter and son. But the marginal results of those changes may make you wonder if it was worth the trouble.

The mom changed grades for her son -- from 98% in one class to 99%, according to court records obtained by the local Morning Call newspaper. That hack allegedly took place in February.

Catherine Venusto also allegedly changed her daughter's grade in 2010, from an "F" to an "M" for medical leave.

"We've been assured that those were the only two grades that were changed," the school district's superintendent told The Morning Call.

Those two minor changes took a lot of effort to achieve. A former school employee, Venusto somehow obtained and used current employees' passwords to access school records and personnel files thousands of times, according to police.

She allegedly accessed the district's grading system 110 times, though she insists she only made those two minor changes. Investigators traced the hacks to three separate computers, all of which were allegedly linked to Venusto.

Catherine Venusto allegedly confessed and told police she thought her actions were just unethical, not illegal. As her case proceeds, her defense lawyer may consider challenging that confession if proper police procedures weren't followed. But that may be a long shot.

The ex-school employee is now getting schooled on the law: If convicted of all six felonies, the mom who allegedly changed grades for her kids could face up to 42 years in prison and a $90,000 fine.

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