Columbia University Exec Charged in Financial Aid Kickback Scheme

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A former Director of Financial Aid for Columbia University and three students are facing fraud and bribery charges after prosecutors accused them of taking part in a $350,000 kickback scheme involving phony graduate school financial grants.

Melanie Williams-Bethea, 47, allegedly approved millions in financial aid for students Annice Kpana, Carmen Canty, and Kyla Thomas over a period of 10 years, even when the three were not attending classes.

Kpana, according to the criminal complaint, has been seeking a master’s degree since 2007 and has not taken classes since 2010, but for six years in which her cost of attendance was zero she got aid of $75,000 to $121,000, and altogether she got nearly $1 million in aid “facilitated or authorized” by Williams-Bethea.

The government also said the two vacationed together in the Caribbean, Hawaii and New Orleans.

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