Rachel Yould Guilty: Is She a Victim or a Con-Artist? Both?

Rachel Yould (AP/Personal Photo)
Rachel Yould (AP/Personal Photo)
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CBS/AP) This is Rachel Yould. 

She was a Rhodes scholar and a beauty queen. She was also the recipient of a new identity under a federal program that helps rape and domestic violence victims hide from their tormentors.

But Yould used her new identity to defraud lenders out of more than $600,000 in student loan money that she used to play the stock market, buy a condo and launch a startup business.

The 38-year-old pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges Thursday in a bizarre case of deception and double identity.

She blamed her legal problems on bad advice she got from the Social Security Administration, but prosecutors describe her as a schemer who used the program for victims of domestic violence and various government student loan programs to commit a sweeping fraud.

Yould, born as Rachel Hall, claimed that she was sexually abused as a child, raped as a young woman and forced to go into hiding to elude an abusive father who was so relentless that she had to take out a restraining order against him.

She found refuge thanks to a little-known federal program that lets people who are victims of domestic violence and harassment assume a new identity.

In 2003 "Rachel Hall" officially became "Rachel Yould" - complete with new Social Security number.

By that point of her life, Yould had reached the lifetime maximum borrowing limit on one of her student loan programs after a long academic career, including Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships, undergraduate work at Stanford and graduate studies at Oxford.

She then began applying for huge student loans with her new identity, allowing her to circumvent the borrowing limit restrictions because the new Rachel had never borrowed in the eyes of lenders, prosecutors said.

Between August 2003 and May 2006, Yould obtained 19 student loans for nearly $680,000, prosecutors say.

She claimed to be pursuing her doctorate in Oriental Studies from Oxford at the time, but a federal court said it was fraud.

Yould could receive just probation or be handed up to 200 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine when she is sentenced in June.