Former Financial Aid Director At Obama’s Alma Mater Accused Of Taking More Than $350,000 In Kickback Scheme

A financial aid director at Columbia University, the alleged alma mater (Since no one ever remembers him being there) of Barack Hussein Obama Soetoro Sobarkah, stands accused of taking $350,000 and working with three students to take $800,000 in stipends that went into their own pockets.

Melanie Williams-Bethea, who was a financial aid director until 2017, was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud, bribery and student aid fraud, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.

The New York Times reports:

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The former director of financial aid at Columbia University’s Teachers College took $375,000 in kickbacks from three graduate students after arranging for them to receive inflated awards, the federal authorities said on Thursday.

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In one case, a student received nearly $600,000 in stipends between 2011 and 2017, and kicked back nearly $300,000 to the former administrator, Melanie Williams-Bethea, the authorities said.

Checks from that student, Annice Kpana, were often written within days of when stipend funds were deposited into her account, and frequently included notations like “Love” or “Thank you!” in the memo line, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Ms. Kpana has been enrolled as a graduate student since 2007, but since at least 2010 she has not been taking classes or actively pursuing her degree, the complaint said. She was seeking a master’s degree in education, it noted.

The other students charged were Carmen Canty and Kyla Thomas, both of whom have been enrolled since 2005 and have not obtained their degrees, according to the complaint. Both were seeking doctoral degrees in education, it said.

Ms. Williams-Bethea had “personal, social relationships” with all three students, the complaint said. She and Ms. Kpana, for example, took a Caribbean cruise together in 2011 and also vacationed together in Hawaii, the Dominican Republic, New Orleans and Anguilla, the complaint said.

Ms. Williams-Bethea and each of the three students face conspiracy and bribery charges.

NBC New York added,

“The complaint alleges that Williams-Bethea got more than $350,000 in kickbacks over the course of the scheme. Kpana, meanwhile, took in an additional $300,000, after paying the former administrator. Canty netted about $150,000, while Canty got $35,000 after kickbacks.”

“We take the matter of fraud and the misappropriation of College funds very seriously, and remain deeply distressed over the betrayal of trust in this matter,” said James L. Gardner, associate vice president for development and external affairs at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Gardner went on to say that the school began investigating the matter last year.

“We immediately launched an internal investigation,” the school said, “which identified improper actions by a single staff member.”

The findings of the school were then turned over to the proper authorities and they continued to work with investigators “to uncover all the facts related to these improper actions.”

Melanie Williams-Bethea was released on $50,000 bail.  I wonder if that money for bail was some that she took in this scheme.

Well, it seems that these young people had a bright future ahead of them, but now they may be sitting in a federal prison cell instead, or seeing as how our system doesn’t tend to really provide justice these days, they may wind up on an election ballot sometime soon.

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