Two years ago, Akash Maharaj was a Morse College junior. Now he’s a convicted felon.
Maharaj, who was kicked out of Yale College in the summer of 2007 and arrested the following September for forging his application for admission, will serve five years of probation for stealing some $31,000 in Yale financial aid, but will avoid jail time if he pays the University back in full. He was sentenced Friday in New Haven Superior Court following a plea bargain last May.
In an interview, Maharaj maintained that he never lied on his application. He said he was mistreated and his case was mishandled by the University. And he blames it all on his ex-boyfriend.
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” he said after the sentencing. “I was an amazing student — any professor will tell you that. I’ve basically been charged with stealing English classes.”
Maharaj has already raised $18,250 — thanks, he said, to “friends and family” — of the $31,591 he allegedly stole from Yale by defrauding the admissions office. The balance will be paid over five years of probation by taking a quarter of his income.
He has five years to pay back the remaining $13,341 while staying out of trouble and performing 250 hours of community service each year. Otherwise, he faces three years in prison.
If he makes full restitution sooner, Maharaj can end his probation early.
Either way, Maharaj will become a convicted felon.
“That’s going to follow you for the rest of your life,” judge Richard Damiani said.
Damiani had offered him a deal that if he could provide the full restitution by Friday, he could have his record wiped.
“I tried to give you a way out,” Damiani said.
But Maharaj said he couldn’t raise that much money in just a few months. He said he is considering his legal options to apply to have his record expunged after his probation ends.
He was also banned from Yale property and contact with Yale personnel, excepting students or professors with whom he has maintained a personal relationship.
“If I were him, I’d forget about Yale completely,” Damiani said.
Maharaj pleaded guilty under the Alford doctrine, conceding that the state has enough evidence for a conviction, but maintaining he did nothing wrong.
The whole case is “so stupid,” he said, that he cannot do anything anymore but laugh at it.
Glenn Conway, Maharaj’s attorney, did not return phone messages seeking comment. Neither did the prosecutor, assistant state’s attorney Maxine Wilensky.
Maharaj had already been enrolled for two terms when the Yale College Dean’s Office rescinded his admission last June after an internal investigation concluded that his transcript and letter of recommendation were not valid. His grades and matriculation dates did not match records at Columbia, where he had formerly been enrolled, and he had omitted mention of his previous attendance at New York University and St. John’s University.
The case began to unravel when Maharaj’s ex-boyfriend, Victor Cazares, also a former member of the Morse College class of 2008 who did not graduate, reported Maharaj to the Dean’s Office.
“None of this would have happened if he hadn’t,” Maharaj said in an interview.
He said he hopes to sue Cazares to recover some of his belongings that he says Cazares kept after they broke up.
Cazares did not return a call to his cell phone seeking comment.