A former Pahrump Valley High School student who graduated near the top of his class with dreams of becoming a hedge fund manager now faces criminal charges for hacking the school computer system and changing grades for money.
Authorities in Nye County have identified Tyler Coyner, now 19, as the ringleader of a grade-changing scheme they say made him money and landed him the title of salutatorian of Pahrump Valley High's class of 2010.
Coyner was arrested Tuesday in Reno, where, according to his Facebook page, he studies finance, mathematics and economics at the University of Nevada.
Nye County detectives also arrested 19-year-old Mathew Miller, Coyner's UNR roommate and fellow Pahrump Valley High School graduate. A third 19-year-old, Nicholas Ramoser, was taken into custody Wednesday morning, as were a dozen juveniles whose names were not released because of their ages.
All of the teens were booked on felony charges in connection with the scheme, which authorities believe went on for two semesters and was made possible when Coyner got his hands on an access code for the school computer system.
The Nye County School District is now conducting a comprehensive review to identify falsified grades and change them back. Notices will be sent out to colleges and universities that might have accepted Pahrump graduates under false pretenses.
"Some of these kids, their high school diplomas might be in jeopardy," said Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo. "And I don't know what UNR is going to do ... because you're talking about public money."
Coyner was attending college on at least one academic scholarship, according to the sheriff.
Coyner's high school grades were good enough to earn him a write-up in the Pahrump Valley Times last June, when he graduated with a weighted grade-point average of 4.54, which reflects additional credit earned for completing rigorous courses.
Authorities said Coyner would not have qualified as the salutatorian of his graduating class without his unauthorized computer access and artificially high marks.
At the time, he told the newspaper he planned to spend two years in UNR's finance program before finishing his undergraduate work in Chicago. After that, Coyner, who participated in his high school's chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America, said he hoped to go to grad school at Harvard or Stanford on his way to becoming the manager of a hedge fund.
"I just want to wish all of my fellow graduates good luck in their future," he told the newspaper.
Coyner and Miller have been released from custody on their own recognizance. Ramoser was freed on bail.
A call to the only Coyner listed in the Pahrump phone book was answered by a man who said Tyler wasn't there. The man, who did not identify himself, called the whole case "ridiculous" but declined further comment.
DeMeo said Coyner and Miller also are being investigated in connection with a flat-screen television that was stolen from the Walmart store in Pahrump and found in their dorm room.
And they might face additional charges in Reno because Nye County detectives also turned up equipment for making fake ID cards in the room the teens shared, DeMeo said.
In the meantime, the search is on for more Pahrump teenagers with inflated report cards. Authorities believe there might be additional students who might have known about the grade-changing enterprise and benefited from it.
Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@review journal.com or 702-383-0350.