Woman Used Second Identity to Escape Abuser and Commit Fraud

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An Alaska woman used a little-known federal program to change her name and Social Security number, and then fradulently racked up over $600,000 in student loans with the new identity.

Rachel Yould, who was born Rachel Hall, says that as a child and young woman she was sexually abused by her father, and eventually had to take out a restraining order against him. She never sought criminal charges against her father, but she did take advantage of a federal program that helps domestic violence and harassment victims change their identities. In 2003, she received a new Social Security number when she officially became Rachel Yould.

Before that, she had been a Fulbright and Rhodes scholar, and had pursued degrees at Stanford and Oxford. In doing so, she had reached the lifetime maximum student loan limit. As Rachel Yould, she began applying for new student loans, on some of which she even listed her former self as a co-signer. Prosecutors say that in three years, Yould received 19 student loans totaling around $680,000. She claimed to be studying at Oxford, in a doctoral program in Oriental Studies.

Yet the money wasn’t used for school. Instead, Yould invested in the stock market, started a journal called the Oxford International Review, and bought a condominium in Anchorage.

Yould, 38, is accused of having falsified information on her loan applications, including income amounts, and employment status. She also forged letters, purportedly from the vice president at a Japanese university, claiming that she was a visiting research student there.

Oxford notified Yould in 2006 that her graduate-student status had lapsed, because she had neither submitted a doctoral thesis nor applied for an extension.

Yould has been charged with ten counts of federal fraud. She appeared before Judge John Sedwick last week, and pleaded guilty to each of the charges. Supporters, mostly anti-domestic violence advocates who would like the charges against Yould dropped because, they say, she has been through enough, gathered at the hearing.

“This case has nothing to do with domestic violence,” said Sedwick. “This case has to do with white-collar fraud.”

The former scholar could receive as long as 200 years in prison, and a $2.5 million fine if convicted on the charges she faces. She will be sentenced in June.

 

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