On March 15, four police cruisers pulled up to a modest brick house in the sleepy town of Cantonment, Florida, to arrest two accused hackers. The cops fanned out swat team-style around the home, stationing themselves at the front, back, and side doors. They pounded on windows and demanded the alleged cybercrooks show their faces, according to witnesses and court documents.
Out came an unlikely pair: Laura Carroll, a petite 50-year-old elementary school vice principal and her 17-year-old daughter, Emily Grover, a popular local tennis star and “A” student at nearby Tate High School.
Police cuffed the women and, at one point, Carroll begged them to let her put on a bra before hauling her away to jail, she said. The teen was taken to a juvenile detention center.
Eight months later, they both face 16 years in prison—a punishment harsher than what some high-level ransomware attackers and corporate data thieves receive. But the pair stands accused of a more bizarre crime: hacking into a school computer system to rig a homecoming election in Grover’s favor.
In an interview, the women tell me they’ve become town pariahs who rarely leave the house and are desperately trying to repair their reputation — and they have no plans to back down. “We’re not pleading guilty to something we didn’t do,” Carroll said. “If there was any crime committed, the punishment doesn’t fit.”
“For us, the most important thing is to clear our name, and to let the whole honest story come out,” she said.
Last month, a new homecoming queen was named at Tate High School. Like Grover, the young woman, Darby Phillips, had blonde hair and a smile as she clutched a bouquet of red roses during the ceremony. Something was missing, though.
Tradition has it, last year’s homecoming queen returns to pass off the crown to the new winner. But this year, the custom was scrapped for one big reason, Grover said. “They didn’t ask me back.”