ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A former Rhodes and Fulbright scholar who pleaded guilty in a bizarre case of deception and double identities has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison and ordered to pay more than $700,000 in restitution.
U.S. District Judge John Sedwick sentenced Rachel Yould to 57 months on Friday, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Yould, 38, took on a new identity under a little-known federal program that helps rape and domestic violence victims hide from their tormentors.
But federal prosecutors say the Anchorage woman used her new identity to defraud lenders out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan money that she used to play the stock market, buy a condo and launch a business.
Yould, born as Rachel Hall, insists she used the money for her studies.
She says she obtained a second Social Security number to hide from her father, who she maintains abused and stalked her. She said she received bad information on how to use the new number.
No criminal charges were ever brought against her father.
Yould pleaded guilty in June to mail and wire fraud and making false statements to get student loans.
During her 2 1/2 day sentencing hearing, prosecutors presented detailed information showing Yould used fabricated pay stubs and W-2 statements to support her multiple loan applications. According to prosecutors, Yould co-signed for some of the loans using her former name and her old Social Security number.
She also was accused of forging letters from academics to further tap into student loan money, prosecutors said.
Sedwick concluded Yould was smart enough to know what she was doing was wrong, no matter what happened to her in the past or what mistaken advice she got from federal bureaucrats.
Her case was monitored by advocates who said Yould was among many people who have encountered problems with the Social Security program intended to protect victims by allowing them to create a new identity.
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com