Judge orders Maharaj’s rearrest

Akash Maharaj, the former Morse College junior charged with forging his application to Yale and stealing some $46,000 in scholarships, was scheduled to be in New Haven Superior Court Wednesday. Instead, he checked himself into a hospital.

So the judge ordered him back behind bars.

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After failing to appear for his hearing Wednesday morning, Superior Court Judge Richard Damiani ordered Maharaj’s rearrest, forfeited the previous bond of $20,000 and ordered a new one of $150,000. And a new move by the Yale General Counsel’s Office suggests that the University doesn’t want him off the hook, either.

Maharaj’s attorney, Glenn Conway, had told Maharaj, 26, he had to appear in court unless he was in a hospital. So, in Damiani’s words, Maharaj “conveniently” checked into one.

Today’s hearing was supposed to address Maharaj’s application for accelerated rehabilitation, a pre-trial diversionary program that gives first-time offenders a chance to have charges against them dismissed and their criminal records expunged if a court determines that the offense was not serious and is unlikely to be repeated.

But Damiani announced in court that he had received an e-mail from Associate General Counsel Susan Sawyer stating that the University wants to receive full restitution for the $31,750 he received in Yale financial aid.

Conway, who could not immediately be reached for comment, has begun making arrangements for $10,000 to be placed in a restitution fund, Damiani said. But Maharaj’s failure to appear today could hurt his chances for accelerated rehabilitation. If that motion fails, Damiani said, the case must proceed to trial.

Asked how Maharaj’s failure to appear would bear on his application for accelerated rehabilitation, State’s Attorney Michael Dearington, the prosecutor in the case, said, “I don’t think it helps him. There was a warrant issued for his arrest — that’s another crime.”

State boundaries can sometimes delay apprehension, said Yale Law Professor Kate Stith, but a suspect can be arrested by New York authorities on a Connecticut warrant.

Norman Pattis, a Connecticut-based trial attorney who represented two past Yale students accused of forging their applications, said accelerated rehabilitation or probation with a suspended sentence is usually the expected course. Maharaj’s failure to appear would not necessarily jeopardize that, he said, if his lawyer can demonstrate the he was seeking necessary medical care.

“The choice is not come to court or throw yourself under a bus,” he said in a phone interview Friday. “All is not lost.”

The higher bond is not surprising, Pattis said, since Maharaj failed to appear after being released on a lower bond. It could yet be reduced, he said, if his hospitalization is judge legitimate.

As for Yale’s expressed interest in full restitution, Pattis said he doubts an argument that Yale needs the money back will convince anybody.

“The victim has a right to be heard, but when Yale cries poor, it gives us reason to say, ‘what?’” he said. “Yale has a fixed number of spots and a responsibility to fill them with the most qualified applicants and to pay their bills if they can’t afford it. If Yale got snookered because someone at the admissions office didn’t do their job, it’s not compelling that they need the money because because they would have spent it anyway.”

If convicted as charged, Maharaj could face up to 25 years in prison under the Connecticut penal code. He could also face federal charges for $15,039 in federal education money he allegedly stole.

Maharaj also did not show up for his last hearing, which was scheduled for April 14. That hearing was postponed until today, although Conway said such delays are not unusual.

Maharaj, who did not answer calls today on his cell phone, was first arrested last September for larceny and forgery in connection to defrauding the University. He pleaded not guilty. The Yale College Dean’s Office had rescinded Maharaj’s admission last June after an internal investigation concluded that his transcript and letter of recommendation were forgeries.

Comments

  • Pierson, 99

    Smells like a lawsuit in the making. Pity poor Maharaj's lawyer - the perp will probably sue him and appeal any judge's ruling based upon "ineffective assistance of counsel."

  • For Spite

    If Yale spends more than the "$31,750 he received in Yale financial aid" trying to recoup that lost money, it would be both ironic and emblematic of the Administration's preoccupation with image. By going after him and the money, they can then look tough, and distract attention from their less than stellar ability to discern fraud. Or maybe, given the large number of applications, we shouldn't really expect the University to catch every case. In which case, let's just admit the occasional defeat in battle, and go on and win the war.

    And if they spend less than 30K on legal fees, including the salaries of the in-house lawyers, then all the power to them!

  • Litigation Not Speculation

    Yale is going to pay the salaries of the in-house people, so it is silly to try to add those to the cost particularly as no period is specified for the salaries -- a year, or two, or what? Moreover, this guy is unlikely to be able to afford counsel in a civil action or even pay a damage judgment against him so the University may well never see the money even if they were to win. There is no easy calculation of damages less costs here, much though accountants or others like such stuff.
    At any rate, such allocation questions are quite besides the point in this assessment. Some entities will sometimes engage in litigation for whatever deterrent effect they believe can come out of a judgment. If the individuals attempting such a fraud believe that all they will get is some suspended sentence, they may believe thy do not face much downside. The University may thus believe one of two things: they may believe the restitution they seek is beyond this guy's means and by asking for it they make the chance of a trial or some jail time higher when he refuses to pay or they may believe that the downside of having to pay full restitution will have a deterrent effect on potential others.
    Bottom line, unlike you guys, I don't see much of a likelihood of a full blown civil suit over restitution. The plea arrangement and restitution I would assume will include admissions of guilt for the fraud, perhaps even an admission of the amount to get the fraud into clear felony territory -- there's not so much left to fight about in the civil suit after that. Look at it this way -- what attorney will take the case for this guy if he admits liability and the amount at stake is something less than $30k. It's not Yale but this guy who cannot afford the suit and if one were filed I see a default judgment. That only costs the amount of the complaint drafting filing and service and a motion for default judgment. Not much cost for Yale.

  • Legal Noises

    Sounds like a good fact pattern for a 1L exam on torts, fraud, etc.