May 1, 2002

Former Cornell Student Convicted of Mail Fraud

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Cornell received word this week that former engineering student Junaid Ahmed ’02, was sentenced and convicted of mail fraud.

The conviction follows Ahmed’s plea of guilty in January to 13 counts of fraud stemming from the inclusion of false information in his application to the College of Engineering in 1996.

Admissions officials discovered false signatures and an altered transcript after Ahmed had applied to the college’s graduate program in mechanical engineering.

Following the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. McAvoy, Ahmed will serve 10 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervision following his release.

He has already repaid $58,000 to Cornell as compensation for the grants, scholarships and loans he received from his financial aid package.

Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Walsh noted the rarity of such a case.

“While mail fraud cases are not unusual, this is the first I’ve become aware of involving a student’s application for admission,” he said.

However, it may not be the last.

Since Ahmed’s guilty plea in January, admissions officers at the College of Engineering have discovered another alleged forged application, this time from a high school senior in Culver City, Calif.

According to Walsh, the distinction between an enrolled student and one who has yet to gain admission is significant. Prosecutorial guidelines correspond to the amount of money involved in the fraud itself. Therefore, since Ahmed’s case represented a significant dollar loss to Cornell in the form of financial aid, his falsification demanded stringent penalties.

The Culver City case, on the other hand, does not involve a financial loss to Cornell and would likely be treated differently, Walsh said.

For the undergraduate admissions office, the distinction is less important.

Standard Procedure

Officers there follow a standard procedure. Once the falsification is confirmed, they will contact the student, the student’s high school and Cornell’s General Counsel Office, according to Doris Davis, associate provost for admissions. From there, the Cornell Police and, in Ahmed’s case, the FBI and US Marshall Service, pursue the investigation.

Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell University News Service, stated that the University, “was glad to see the issue resolved.”

As a result of this incident, she added, there will not necessarily be any procedural changes in the admissions process but admissions offices across the University’s colleges will practice “enhanced vigilance.”

Archived article by Michael Dickstein