Ex-TCC employee faces more charges

Thursday, August 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Nine more felony charges have been filed against a former Tulsa Community College employee implicated in a records-tampering probe.

The latest charges were filed Wednesday against Mary Elizabeth Espinoza, 37, who now faces 10 counts of violating Oklahoma's Computer Crimes Act.

Espinoza, who is free on bail, was originally charged May 21 with a single count. She was fired from TCC in June 2001.

She is accused of logging into the school's database to alter enrollment records of Middle Eastern students.

In the original count, she was accused of removing an electronic ``registration hold'' _ a computer code that can bar a student from enrolling in classes _ from the file of a Pakistani student.

At a preliminary hearing last week, Assistant District Attorney Catherine Doud maintained that more counts should be allowed based on evidence that Espinoza had lifted similar holds for nine other students. Defense attorney Roland V. Funk objected.

Tulsa County Special Judge Terry Bitting found sufficient evidence to require Espinoza to face trial and said Doud should be allowed to file additional charges.

Espinoza, a resident of Annadale, Va., was arrested there in May. A Navy reservist, she was brought back to Tulsa and released from jail on June 21 after posting $10,000 bail.

Police suspect that she used her position in the counseling office to help students with poor English skills enroll in classes without meeting TCC's English-language prerequisite.

In a document filed Wednesday, Doud said preliminary hearing testimony ``disclosed that the defendant had significant out-of-country contacts, including a dating relationship with a Kuwaiti pilot.''

Espinoza was at the Pentagon _ being interviewed ``to work directly for the secretary of the Navy'' _ when that building was struck by a hijacked airplane during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, documents filed previously by the defense show.

Others who face separate charges of altering grades at TCC are former employee Dlorah Jean Hogle, 46, of Owasso and former TCC student Tarig Al-Taweel, 33, a Palestinian who grew up in Saudi Arabia.