A 26-year-old Carmel resident was sentenced Monday to five years of probation and ordered to pay more than $70,000 in restitution to Cornell University after pleading guilty to federal loan fraud.
As part of a plea agreement reached in October, Cavya Chandra admitted to forging documents from 2008 to 2014 in order to gain admittance to three universities—Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and IUPUI. Federal investigators said the fraudulent documents included academic transcripts and letters of recommendation.
Investigators say Chandra received more than $130,000 in financial aid—much of which was federal direct student loan money provided by the U.S. Department of Education—after fraudulently gaining admission to Cornell in 2010. Cornell also provided tens of thousands of dollars in grant assistance to Chandra.
Chandra initially applied for admission to Cornell in 2008 but was denied, according to investigators. She gained admittance to Carnegie Mellon in 2009 after submitting a forged letter of recommendation from a high school teacher.
In 2010, she was accepted as a transfer student at Cornell after forging a transcript that inflated her grade point average at Carnegie Mellon from 2.79 to 4.0, investigators said. She also submitted a fake high school transcript that falsely inflated her grades and a forged letter of recommendation from a high school teacher.
In November 2013, Chandra was expelled from Cornell after she applied to medical school and the American Medical College Application Service discovered her deception and reported it to the university.
Investigators say Chandra then applied for admission at IUPUI as a transfer student using forged copies of her Carnegie Mellon and Cornell transcripts that inflated her grades. IUPUI admitted her and gave her credit for classes she didn’t take or pass at Cornell.
Chandra graduated from IUPUI in 2015, but her degree was rescinded a year later after the school discovered her fraud.
As part of her sentence, Chandra was fined $1,000 and agreed to disclose her plea agreement and criminal conviction to any universities she attends in the future or if she applies for student financial aid.
The U.S. Department of Education-Office of Inspector General led the investigation.
“Whatever pressure students feel to get into a particular school, it cannot justify fraud,” Special Agent in Charge Geoffrey Wood said in written comments. “We maximize opportunities for higher education by maintaining the integrity of financial aid programs, including taking action against dishonesty.”