A Florida school principal and her daughter have both been arrested for allegedly hacking into hundreds of student accounts at Tate High School to cast votes for the teen as Homecoming Queen.
The mother, Laura Rose Carroll, 50, is an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School. According to police, both Carroll and her daughter, 17-year-old Emily Rose Grover, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with hacking into hundreds of student accounts to cast fraudulent votes for the girl as Homecoming Queen last year. It paid off at the time because Grover was crowned Tate High School’s 2020 Homecoming Queen.
The actual charges include “one count each of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks, and electronic devices (a third-degree felony), unlawful use of a two-way communications device (a third-degree felony), criminal use of personally identifiable information (a third-degree felony) and conspiracy to commit these offenses (a first-degree misdemeanor).”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began an investigation into the matter last November. That was triggered when the Escambia County School District alleged that the students’ accounts had been accessed illegally.
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The FBI alleged that Carroll had district-level access to the FOCUS program that was overseen by the school board. That is the school district’s student information system.
Hundreds of votes for the school’s Homecoming Court were tagged as fraudulent. Approximately 120 votes came from the same IP address and were cast in a short period of time. According to ClickOrlando, “Records show the district used a third-party vendor called Election Runner to allow students to vote for homecoming king and queen from Oct. 28-30, 2020 and that vendor flagged 117 votes as being fraudulent.”
— NorthEscambia.com (@northescambia) March 15, 2021
Carroll’s cell phone was linked to the FOCUS breach. So were her home computers. Almost 250 votes for the Homecoming Court were tied to those sources.
In a less than brilliant move, the daughter bragged to multiple students that she had used the FOCUS account to cast votes for herself. The students she told this to then told the investigators. Nine students and one teacher gave written statements to authorities on the matter. They said that Grover had boasted about having access to her mother’s FOCUS account or they had witnessed her accessing the county portal for the past four years.
“She looks up all of our group of friends’ grades and makes comments about how she can find out our test scores all the time,” one student stated to investigators.
Another student claimed that Grover shared information she obtained from the FOCUS system.
“She did not make it seem like logging in was a big deal and was very comfortable with doing so,” the report stated.
Carroll is also being accused of permitting her daughter to have access to FOCUS and hundreds of students’ personal files. That information included test scores.
The mother was booked into the Escambia County Jail. Her bail was set at $8,500. She has been suspended from her job with the school district. The daughter was taken into custody and then transferred to the Escambia Regional Juvenile Detention Center. She has been expelled from the high school.
The Office of the State Attorney, First Judicial Circuit will be prosecuting this particular case.
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