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Former Cornell student gets probation, will pay $70K in restitution for student loan fraud

Student loans (MGN Online Photo)

An Indiana woman and former Cornell University student was sentenced Monday in Syracuse for federal student loan fraud against the school.

According to U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith, Cavya Chandra, 26, of Carmel, Indiana, will serve a 5-year term of probation, pay a fine of $1,000 and pay more than $70,000 in restitution to the Ivy League school.

Cavya admitted that between 2008 and 2014, she obtained admission to, and atrtended three universities — Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cornell and Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis — by forging various documents, including academic transcripts and letters of recommendations. The charge to which Cavya pleaded guilty to relates to her fraudulent acceptance of federal student loan money while attending Cornell.

According to the District Attorney's Office, Chandra applied for admission to Cornell as a transfer student in February 2010. In submitting her transfer application to Cornell, she included a forged transcript, falsely representing that she had received a perfect 4.0 Qualified Point Average (“QPA”) during the fall 2009 semester at Carnegie Mellon. In reality, Chandra had actually received a much lower QPA of 2.79 for that semester.

Officials said Cavya also submitted to Cornell a fake high school transcript that falsely inflated her grades and included a forged letter of recommendation from a high school teacher. Unaware of Cavya’s fraud, Cornell admitted her as a transfer student for the fall 2010 semester.

While enrolled at Cornell, Cavya ultimately received more than $130,000 in financial aid, much of which was federal direct student loan money provided by the Department of Education. Cornell also provided tens of thousands of dollars in grant assistance to Cavya during her time as a student at Cornell.

“Whatever pressure students feel to get into a particular school, it cannot justify fraud," said U.S. Attorney Jaquith. "We maximize opportunities for higher education by maintaining the integrity of financial aid programs, including taking action against dishonesty.”

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General with assistance from Cornell University, and it was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael F. Perry.

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