Courts & Crime

Ex-Miss Anchorage and Rhodes scholar says fraud case is 'misunderstanding'

Prosecutors say Rachel Yould, a former Anchorage Rhodes and Fulbright scholar, is a master manipulator who should spend six years in prison for misusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans. They say she should pay more than $800,000 in restitution.

Yould, despite her guilty pleas to 15 felony counts of federal mail and wire fraud and making false statements, says she is innocent and that the whole case is based on misunderstanding. Her troubles are rooted, she said, in the sexual and physical violence she suffered as a child and into adulthood at the hands of her biological father. Her lawyer argues that she shouldn't go to prison at all, but instead should be sentenced to probation so that she can repay what she owes.

The defense says her efforts to escape her father's reach led her to create a second identity for her own protection; prosecutors say it was a scheme to draw down more student loan money because she had reached her lifetime limit.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Judge John Sedwick will decide her fate. The judge allowed two days for the hearing, noting "the unprecedented volume of paper filed by the parties in anticipation of the sentencing."

Whatever happens, the life Yould envisioned as a bright young scholar is gone.

"As for just punishment, Rachel Yould has already been punished beyond any sentence the court can impose," her attorney, federal public defender Rich Curtner, wrote in his sentencing memorandum to the judge. "Her life has been on hold for four years. Her career is finished, her reputation is ruined, her former life in remnants. After all of her work and research, her Doctorate is unobtainable. She faces a staggering debt she is committed to repay."

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