Monday, September 13, 2010

Rachel Yould Update--Sentencing

Rachel Yould, the former Miss Anchorage, Fulbright and Rhodes Scholar who fraudulently obtained three-quarters of a million dollars to finance her high-flying academic career was sentenced last Friday to 57 months in the penitentiary.  The riveting tale of Ms. Yould's life, crime and sentencing reads like a mystery novel as I wrote on Bad Lawyer, last week.  This is reporter Lisa Demer's terrific follow-up story:

"Rachel Yould, a former Rhodes and Fulbright scholar from Anchorage whose promising academic career fell apart over fraudulent student loans, was sentenced Friday to four years, nine months in federal prison.  U.S. District Judge John Sedwick also ordered the 38-year-old Yould to pay nearly $750,000 in restitution to lenders, former employees and vendors of the Oxford International Review, a highbrow publication she edited while pursuing her doctorate. She also must serve five years of supervised release after she gets out of prison.

Yould, 38, pleaded guilty in June to 15 federal felony charges laid out in two indictments: 10 mail fraud counts, one wire fraud count and four charges of making false statements to a bank. In all she took out more than $679,000 in student loans, federal prosecutors said. They say about $403,000 went for noneducational expenses. Her deceits began after she ran up against her lifetime limits on subsidized loans, they say.

Despite her guilty pleas, Yould has maintained she is innocent and contends that her troubles arose from her efforts to escape her abusive biological father. She secured a second Social Security number to hide from him and says she received bad information from the government on how to use that new number.

But assistant U.S. Attorney Retta-Rae Randall said Yould deceived financial sources and academic institutions with "fraud, lies and manipulation." Over the 2 1/2-day sentencing hearing, Randall presented information showing that Yould used fabricated pay stubs and W-2 statements to support student loan applications. She co-signed for some of the loans using her old Social Security number and former name, Rachel Hall. She forged letters from her academic sponsor at Keio University in Japan. To secure more loans, she used the name and Social Security number of her husband, Brett Yould, who sat through the hearing in the front row. He said later that the extent of the fraud surprised him.

Prosecutors argued for a prison sentence of six years.  'Her greed is not about money,' Randall told the judge. 'Her greed is about connections and influence.'

Federal public defender Rich Curtner argued that Yould had an impeccable record before the fraud charges. She helped AIDS patients. She volunteered for Mother Teresa in India. She had a brilliant academic history. He argued that she has much more to give and shouldn't go to prison at all.

Curtner said he and Yould will discuss whether to appeal the sentence.

The judge said it was clear Yould, who has many supporters, had done much good in her life. But he also said she got caught up in her own vision of herself.  'I think what really happened is that Ms. Yould became enamored of the idea that she could have a prominent role, have great stature in the international academic community,'  Sedwick said in sentencing her. 'Indeed, she already had it. But she wanted to keep it. She wanted to pursue it. She wanted to embellish it. She wanted to make it better.'

And she committed fraud in her pursuit of that goal, the judge said.

He directed her to begin her prison sentence immediately.

She surrendered to U.S. marshals at the close of the hearing, after she had a few last minutes with family, friends and supporters. They lined up to say goodbye.  'Who's next?' Yould asked, smiling. She gave big hugs to them all, telling one advocate 'you're so good.'


Yould's case became a cause celebre among domestic-violence advocates. Her sentencing hearing, a sort of mini-trial, drew backers from Anchorage and all around the country. There was a court blogger from San Francisco, a supporter from Minnesota, an advocate from Hawaii, who testified at the sentencing.

Her supporters say she is one of many women who have encountered problems with the Social Security program intended to protect victims by allowing them to create a new identity. Anchorage-based STAR, or Standing Together Against Rape, included a call to action in an internal newsletter for staff and volunteers urging advocates to 'pack the courthouse' at Yould's sentencing.   STAR mainly wanted to show support for Yould's 'safety plan,' which included escorts and other measures to protect her from her abuser, who they believe still presents a risk, said program director Keeley Olson.

Her family sat in the front row behind the defense table, including her husband and mother-in-law, her retired schoolteacher mother and stepfather, who adopted her as an adult. An uncle came from Alabama.   In all, more than a couple dozen supporters showed up for Yould.

After the hearing, Brett Yould said Rachel  'has a lot of problems, stemming directly from serious, serious abuse.'  That's no excuse for what she did, he said.  'She is very troubled. Our entire relationship -- I spent a lot of time trying to support her emotionally. It's been a long and hard road, it really has.'  He said he cares for her and wanted to give her support during such a rough time. But he said he told her about six months ago that no matter how the court case resolved, he would seek a divorce.  'This whole thing is just sort of more chaos, and Rachel's life has always been chaotic like this,' Brett Yould said. 'I've always been asked to step in and save her at the last minute on many occasions. And I can't do that anymore.'  He said he's certain Rachel was subjected to years of abuse and torture 'at the hands of a madman. Her biological father.'  Her father has never been charged with violence against her, but Rachel Yould has said in court papers that he abused her sexually, physically and emotionally through her childhood and into adulthood.

She's spent her adult life trying to overcome deep feelings of inadequacy, Brett Yould said.


Prosecutor Randall told the judge that Yould committed a 'sophisticated, international fraud. You can't fathom why someone with all those advantages ends up at this dead end,' the prosecutor said. 'She has no moral compass.'

What really offends prosecutors, Randall told the judge, is how Yould blamed her troubles on the federal program through which some 14,000 women and children have secured new Social Security numbers to hide from abusers and stalkers.  Victims who could benefit may instead fear the program because of Yould's assertions that she was just following the guidance of unnamed Social Security field officers. If someone is trying to hide from an abuser, why include the old Social Security number on a loan form along with the new one? Randall said.  'How much damage has she done to that program?'  Randall asked.

When Yould was given a turn to speak, she answered that 'we follow these instructions not because they make sense but because we believe in the authority of the information the government provides us and because we fear for our lives.'

Sedwick said he never doubted that Yould had the right to a second Social Security number. But for Yould, with all her smarts, to blame federal bureaucrats 'borders on the ludicrous,' the judge said.  Sedwick said defendants usually stand before him with only a lawyer on their side. No family. No friends. No advocates from around the world.  'There is much to be said for the proposition that Ms. Yould is a conniving and manipulative person,' Sedwick said. 'Certainly her behavior suggests that this is true. On the other hand it's clear there's more to her than that. One needs only observe how many friends and supporters she has had by her side throughout this sentencing hearing to realize the picture painted by the government is too severe.'

Yould said she regrets what happened and is saddened for any hardships to others. But she never said she did wrong. 'The violence and stalking I've suffered are not actually the hardest experiences I've endured,' Yould said, speaking in a clear, confident voice. 'The most difficult thing for me is the isolation brought on by living a life that most people seem unable to relate to or understand. It's a very lonely experience.'"
As I said before, Rachel Yould may well be a conniving and manipulative fraudster, but where did she learn the behavior, and why?  My sense is that this is a very damaged woman with a history of child sexual abuse.  I hope that the next couple of years enables her a degree of recovery and peace.  

She needs to get honest with herself and others as a first step to recovery. 


  1. Then fix the green hair.

  2. That's not green hair, that's US Marshall Service mugshot lighting.

  3. Having just read a profile of this sociopath in the New Yorker, I gotta say I don't really understand why people believe her entirely unsubstantiated claims of abuse - which follow her normal pattern of deceit - even after nearly everything else she has said in her life has proven to be false. She will say literally anything to excuse her behavior, even if it means destroying her father's life and reputation.

  4. I agree with 10/2 Anonymous and here is why (this is pure armchair psychology but thats what anonymous comments are for).

    Rachel is a brilliant and disturbed individual but she does not come across as malevolent. Perhaps in her twisted mind, she can falsely accuse her father of abuse precisely because she knows he is innocent.

    My gut feeling is that if he really did what she said, she would have been determined to prove it. Instead, she can dump her guilt on him while jusifying it to herself as a 'harmless' lie, since she knows she is the one lying.

    Convoluted logic? Absolutely. But look at the incredibly complex web of lies she has spun - convoluted doesn't begin cover it. My $.02.

  5. If the New Yorker profile is correct, it appears that her AIDS work was at least partly bogus; that she did the charity work for publicity, self-aggrandizement, and to boost her credentials for acceptance and scholarships at elite universities; that she frequently lied about and inflated her credentials and knowledge; and that she never got close to completing a doctoral dissertation. She appears never to have been really interested in any particular subject, so as to commit to examining it in the depth needed for a doctoral dissertation; but she liked the academic lifestyle, particularly the globe-trotting public-exposure part.
    See this link, which is an example of how she misrepresented her credtentials and her academic affliation as an attendee at a conference in Greece:

  6. She is a classic case of Borderline Personality Disorder. She is the child of alcoholic parents, she is pathologically manipulative, and has narcissistic traits. Even her husband fits the profile of the spouse of such a person. Any psychologist with experience with persons with BPD and Narcissistic Personality Disorder will have no trouble recognizing the tell tale signs.

  7. Mmmmmmmmmm...maybe.

  8. Classic BPD. Ah, I'm annoyed someone beat me to the armchair diagnosis.

  9. Ha, that's funny: the link to the Greek conference web page where she is described as "Professor."

    And it's interesting that in the large group photo she's prominent in the first row.

  10. Not BPD, but its evil(er) twin, Antisocial Personality Disorder. Having had the unfortunate experience of having a relationship with a Borderline woman, and having subsequently read whatever I could get my hands on to make sense of the whole episode, I can attest that BPD craziness is performed unconsciously, through impulsiveness and a loss of control - and is therefore not sustainable in the long term. The not-so-young Ms Yould on the other hand appears to have kept the ruse up for a number of years in a deliberate, calculated manner. Very antisocial indeed!

  11. Wish you all the best Rachel...yeah its been 20 years but I still care. -Tay

  12. So many opinions by people of have only read articles and no personal experience with the subject.

    I only wish such certainty of information were that reliable.

    I read the new yorker piece, and it does strongly imply that she is manipulative in the extreme. But expressing this conclusion as if it were settled fact based on any one source, even the new yorker, is personally irresponsible.

    But then it is so much easier to seek closure and put it out of your mind, rather than remain open-mineded

  13. she is hot I would hit that; she will get that Y munched in the slammer fo sho

  14. If her uncle from Alabama attends her sentencing hearing sitting behind her along with her family and friends on the defence side, doesn't that lend credence to the abuse by her father accusations? He travels from Alabama to Alaska to support her.

  15. Could she be the love child of Bernie Madoff and Leona Helmsley? The sister of Casey Anthony? Do you need a degree from Harvard to know you should not give false information to get loans. She's very bright, and somewhat attractive. But she's a liar, thief, cheat, major operator and all 'round common garden variety criminal. Why couldn't she have used the big brain for something meaningful? Because she was too busy being a small time crook. End of story. I find her morally repulsive and her denial which she has papered over with intellectual palaver is equally repulsive. What a big gas bag.

    Quite poor but honest in Ventura

  16. What a toxic narcissist! I knew someone like this; wish I'd). read the story sooner (just stumbled on it). People like this ruin other lives. There should be a registry for narcissistic offenders like this.