Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yale fraud suspect a no-show at court

Bail raised to $150,000
By Randall Beach
Register Staff
— A former Yale student accused of defrauding the university on his application was supposed to report to Superior Court Wednesday morning to work out an accelerated rehabilitation arrangement.
But the 26-year-old defendant, Akash Maharaj, never showed up. According to his attorney, Glenn Conway, Maharaj checked himself into a hospital.
Judge Richard Damiani, visibly annoyed, ordered Maharaj re-arrested and raised his bail, originally $20,000, to $150,000.
Speaking from the bench during a brief session, Damiani said Conway, who was not in the courtroom, had told him Mararaj conferred with the attorney Tuesday.
“His client said, ‘If I can’t make it (to court) tomorrow, what will happen?’” Damiani stated. “Then he conveniently went to the hospital.”
Conway did not return phone calls Wednesday afternoon seeking comment and information on Maharaj’s whereabouts.
Damiani also said he had received an e-mail message from Yale’s associate general counsel, Susan Sawyer, saying the university wants full restitution from Maharaj.
He reportedly received $31,750 in Yale financial aid and about $15,000 in federal scholarships and loans.
Maharaj is charged with first-degree larceny for allegedly stealing a total of about $46,000, and second-degree forgery for allegedly submitting a phony grade transcript to Yale.
He also is charged with criminal violation of a restraining order.
All three are felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.
The restraining order charge stems from a dispute Maharaj had with his then-boyfriend, also a Yale student.
According to court documents, Yale University police were called last June by the student, who reported Maharaj had threatened to kill him after he tried to break off their relationship. The complainant also said Maharaj had threatened to harm himself.
Maharaj’s brief Yale career began to unravel after that phone call.
Maharaj was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, while his boyfriend told a Yale associate dean about inconsistencies in Maharaj’s supposed life story.
For example, the boyfriend said, Maharaj had told him he was actually 26, not 21, as he had previously stated.
Yale officials then began to investigate him.
They reportedly discovered that not only had he lied about his age on his application, but he had also not attended Columbia University in the years he claimed, nor had he achieved straight A’s there.
Yale officials expelled Maharaj last summer and he was arrested in September. He left New Haven, reportedly returning to his home in New York City. He is a native of Trinidad and Tobago.
Accelerated rehabilitation might be possible despite Maharaj’s failure to appear in court Wednesday. Otherwise, he could face a trial.
Under accelerated rehabilitation, a defendant with no prior criminal record is placed on probation for up to two years, during which time he performs community service or other duties.
If he completes the requirements, the charges are dismissed.
Last month, Conway said Maharaj was “looking forward to getting closure on this unfortunate incident. It will be a great relief to him when it’s put to rest.”
Randall Beach can be reached at or 789-5766.

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