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Fake College Student
David Jovani Vanegas claimed to be a sophomore transfer student at Rice University. In reality he had never managed to get into Rice.

Last September, Vanegas started attending classes. He also ate in the university's cafeterias, hung out with other students, and occasionally crashed in people's dorms when he was too tired to go back to his off-campus lodgings. Vanegas appears to have been relatively friendly towards students, but didn't seem to form many lasting relationships. Hardly surprising, really.

It was Vanegas' friend Daniel Rasheed that turned him in to the police. He says he wasn't expecting such repercussions.

On September 13th 2006, Vanegas was arrested.

On the day of Vanegas's arrest, criminal trespass charges were filed against him (but later dismissed). Within the next few weeks, campus administrators alleged that Vanegas had taken close to $3,700 worth of food from Rice cafeterias. On September 28, the district attorney's office filed felony charges for aggregate theft. Bail was set at $2,000.

The reason he gave for his fake studies? He didn't get into the university, but it would have broken his mother's heart for him not to attend.
Categories: Identity/ImpostersLaw/Police/CrimeMiscellaneous
Posted by Boo on Tue Oct 17, 2006
I just saw a thing on tv this morning about how in 1976 about 40% (in the 40s) of highschool students APPLY to colleges. In 2006, it's like 69% & the colleges accepting students have not really started accepting MORE now than they did in 1976. (Like if they accepted 100 new students then, they're accepting fewer, the same, or just a handful more in 2006.) So...I can at least understand his desire to be there...but totally the wrong way to do it!!
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  05:24 PM
Maegan, I think it's good that the colleges don't accept more people, because hoesntly... knowing some of the people who applied and were rejected... it's probably for the best xD

And then you get me who was accepted everywhere I applied, but I am going to community college, because upon visiting the colleges, they sucked (and the good one I can only afford three years xD)

oh yeah.
Posted by Mera  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  06:07 PM
This is the phenomenon known as the "college drop-in," and it isn't new. Many people have done this before, either because, like Vanegas, they were too embarrassed to admit they didn't get in (or had been dropped), or they simply didn't see why not being admitted or not having tuition money should deprive them of that great college experience they'd heard about and seen in the movies.

Another well-known phenomenon is the college hangovers. In university towns like New Haven, Austin, or Cambridge, you find lots of people who've already graduated but can't bear to leave, so they stick around, driving cabs, washing dishes, or whatever, for years and years.
Posted by Big Gary  in  University Park, Texas  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  06:27 PM
Well, his only crime was stealing food; unless you have U.S. laws that make his attendance at classes trespassing. Over here anyone can sit in on university classes (I have, twice), but of course you can only sit the exams if you're properly enrolled. It's rare for people to want to learn much without getting qualifications, so it's not a big issue. Lecturers just ignore the extra body or two they don't recognise.
Posted by Wendy  in  Wellington NZ  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  07:37 PM
Over here at University of Arizona, the university has a rule that only university students can go to classes. My guess is that a lot of it is a safety issue. If a non-student does go to a class, it could technically be considered treaspassing, which seems like exactly what the "student" above is getting arrested for.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  07:45 PM
Jesus, if what that guy did is illegal, I'm glad the statute of limitations is up for me. I spent a good part of the 70's hanging around Fordham University's Bronx campus, looking for all the world like a student, although I wasn't registered there.

I worked at WFUV, the campus radio station, did props for the theater group, was an editor for one of the student newspapers and was involved in a few other activities, without the university making a dime off me. I even had the keys to two offices on opposite sides of the campus.

Most of my friends knew my odd status. I had a strict policy: I would not lie about being a non-student. If someone asked me straight out if I was a Fordham student, I would admit that I wasn't. If they didn't ask, hey, I couldn't help what they assumed, now could I?

I did finally apply for admission. I gave the admission office the names of all the students I knew who ran various clubs and activities as references. They didn't exactly know what to make of me. The lady in the office said, "I'm confused. How were you able to be part of all these groups?"

I said, "Well, who has more time to attend meetings than someone who doesn't have classes to go to?" She had to concede that I had a point.

Yeah, they let me in but I only lasted three semesters. I guess I was a better NON-student than a student.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Wed Oct 18, 2006  at  05:27 AM
That's a great story, Cranky Media Guy!

There'a a kid in my dorm who routinely goes to half a quarter of classes, registers for the next quarter, and drops all of his current classes. Then he hangs around campus for the next month and a half until the next quarter starts. The college can't do anything about it because he's still paying and he's still registered for classes. Your (and Vangas's) way sounds smarter, although apparently less legal.
Posted by Iria  on  Wed Oct 18, 2006  at  10:01 AM
Iria said:

"Your (and Vangas's) way sounds smarter, although apparently less legal."

Honestly, I never thought that was I was doing was illgal. I thought it might be against University rules, but I checked the handbook. It said (and I quote from memory here), "Fordham activities are for students, faculty and members of the Fordham community."

I figured that I had them there in two different ways.

1: I was a member of the "Fordham community" by virtue of hanging around the campus all the time and being involved in campus activities (a little recursive, perhaps).

2: I lived less than a mile from the campus and therefore was in their "community."
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Wed Oct 18, 2006  at  08:07 PM
College campuses are often very nice places to walk around on, and I've done that often at ones where I was not, had never been, and never intended to enroll. I've even gone in to chat with various faculty members about their work if it interested me, or sometimes been caught up in university functions (such as when I snuck into a Spanish Club meeting since they had a big buffet there). Then there are the times that I listened in on classes while I was waiting for somebody. So I wonder if that makes me a criminal?

(NOTE TO INTERPOL: my name is Garcia Juan Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Pedro Vicente Miguel Smith III, and I live in Santiago, Chile)
Posted by Accipiter  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  02:53 AM
There was a movie some years ago where Michael Fox just walked into the building of some big firm, found himself an empty office, and took it from there.
I remember I found the plot wildly unrealistic...
Posted by eovti  in  Sandefjord, Norway  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  08:24 AM
I dont think thats so dubious.It also shouldnt be illegal.
Posted by J  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  11:45 AM
"It also shouldnt be illegal."

Really? You are willing to pay thousands of dollars to send your teenager to a place where just ANYONE can walk on & take part in things? The students coming in are screened. Strangers in off the streets have no info on file that can be referenced later, if there is criminal activity.

Joe College-Student commits a crime. The police find out he's a student at U College. When they contact the office, they can say, "Joe should be in Uderwater Basket Weaving 101 right now. He is also housed in the Benefactor Dorm building." Now, being a registered student isn't going to cut down on crime - it just makes the PEOPLE easier to keep track of. So, you know your child is socializing with people that the school has screened & were willing to allow into the school population.

Letting any nut onto the campus means that your child is now exposed to scammers, killers, rapists, and yes, even "normal" people too ashamed/stupid/silly/moronic to simply tell the truth.

With the cost of education these days - I would be looking for my money's worth. That school better be doing things to PROTECT my child.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  12:46 PM
"The students coming in are screened."

Um, what kind of screening do you think the universities do?
Maybe things have changed since I was a student, but my schools looked at my grades and test scores and finances, but I don't think they ever checked to see if I was an ax murderer or an embezzler or a food thief. They did ask for letters of recommendation, but I don't think they ever investigated whether those letters were written by real people.
So they really had no way of knowing if those 3 Nobel prizes I mentioned were real or not ...
Even when I became a graduate teaching assistant, I only remember having to sign a pledge not to abuse human research subjects or laboratory animals (something we didn't have many opportunities to do anyway in the School of Arts and Humanities).
Posted by Big Gary  in  University Park, Texas  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  06:46 PM
Maegan said:

"Letting any nut onto the campus means that your child is now exposed to scammers, killers, rapists, and yes, even "normal" people too ashamed/stupid/silly/moronic to simply tell the truth."

Hey, I was one of those nuts!

The fact is that you simply cannot protect every citizen from every possible threat. Not if you want to live in a free society, anyway.

When you walk down the street in a big city, do you know the history of every person who passes you by? The moment you put your feet on the floor in the morning, you're taking some risk. That's the nature of life.

Personally, I think there's more potential for danger emanating from those who "only want to protect us" than there is from the strangers on the street.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  07:22 PM
eovti said:

"There was a movie some years ago where Michael Fox just walked into the building of some big firm, found himself an empty office, and took it from there.
I remember I found the plot wildly unrealistic..."

Back in the late 70's, I did some A.V. work at Pepsi World Headquarters just outside NYC. The friend I worked with and I used to joke that we could probably find a vacant office, put a sign on the door reading, "Youth Marketing Services" (I was in my 20's back then) and set up shop without being caught for a while.

I honestly believe that, with a little luck, that kind of thing could be pulled off in a LOT of large office complexes. Bureaucracies tend to believe what they see. As my friend Alan Abel says, "A serious demeanor implies serious intent."
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  07:25 PM
"Um, what kind of screening do you think the universities do?"
I'm not saying they run background checks...you either have to REALLY have the right info - or be able to VERY CLEVERLY fake real stuff. Why cleverly fake so that YOU have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hang out someplace??

"Hey, I was one of those nuts!"
YEAH! I know. wink

"The fact is that you simply cannot protect every citizen from every possible threat. Not if you want to live in a free society, anyway."
College ISN'T free. You pay for it. When you pay for something - you want results. You want to see the fruits of your labor. When I send a child away to be educated - that is what I expect to be done. I want the school to provide the services that they have promised. Safety on college campuses is becoming a bigger & bigger issue (to parents anyway). They want to know that there will be reprecussions when people try to manipulate the system to get something for nothing. They want their child to be safe. Just like autos - people spend thousands to be sure their family is "safe" inside of little aluminum coffins on wheels. Airbags, crumple zones, restraints. You pay for safety all the time. You expect results.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Oct 19, 2006  at  10:56 PM
Maegan said:

"College ISN'T free. You pay for it."

I was using the word "free" as in "freedom," not as in "devoid of financial cost."

"'Hey, I was one of those nuts!'
YEAH! I know. [wink] "

Honestly, although I'm sure my presence might not have been welcomed by the administration of Fordham University, I honestly believe I was a net asset to the school. I did a lot of stuff for Fordham while hanging around there.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  03:36 AM
Which is all fine & good...but for everyone one of you...there are a hundred people trying to get onto campus to do HARM.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  09:27 AM
"I was using the word "free" as in "freedom," not as in "devoid of financial cost.""

I know. I was being facecious.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  09:30 AM
Colleges and universities, in the U.S. anyway, have admissions standards for a reason -- they are building a community of scholars able to handle a particular level of academic vigor. In addition they have finite resources, including classroom space, class time and physical plant. Drop-ins have the potential to undermine the first, and are free-riders who burden the limited resources of the institution. So wholly apart from the security issue they should not be tolerated.

The case of Vanegas is a perfect example -- he couldn't get in on the merits so why should he be allowed to use everyone else's time and resources through self-help?

Maybe it's different in other countries where, for example, any high school or Gymnasium student is entitled to attend a college and colleges are not arrayed along a spectrum of intellectual rigor, but in the U.S. that is not the case.
Posted by Sam  in  Delaware  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  11:56 AM
A bit harsh to call it trespassing IMHO,weird maybe but illegal...but hey I don
Posted by nitedrive  in  sweden  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  03:49 PM
Maegan said:

"Which is all fine & good...but for everyone one of you...there are a hundred people trying to get onto campus to do HARM."

How do you know that?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  08:26 PM
Okay, here is Raoul's bad joke for you, but laugh anyway because it makes your soft parts jiggle. Here is the Joke: "Okay, why did the Fake College Student not graduate from the Fake College? Because HE WAS NO DUMMY"...oh, ow...snort...my ribs are hurting now, and the milk has come from my nose. I must wipe my eyes on my shirt and my nose on your shirt. Oh, ow, ow, stop Raoul, he is on the roll...Oh, no...I think I told that joke wrong. Too late, you know? Ha ha ha Rrrraoul
Posted by Raoul  on  Fri Oct 20, 2006  at  11:12 PM
eovti mentioned the Michael J. Fox movie, however, if I remember right the character had a job in the firm and took control of an empty office. His job was in the mail room which is how he discovered the empty office. He was also, if I remember right, banging his uncle's, the firm's CEO, new and much younger wife. A fact which was crucial to the plot later when he took control in a coup.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Sat Oct 21, 2006  at  05:22 PM
"How do you know that?"
Because people are nuts. Statistics. The population around a school is dense. Thousands of people packed into a few square miles. The numbers of murders/rapes/robberies that occur on or near school campuses. That's not including the newest scams. "Give me your bank info & I'll send you student aid information." They're open to a lot b/c of the communal lifestyle.

http://imdb.com/title/tt0093936/ - Also, that is the Michael J. Fox movie.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sat Oct 21, 2006  at  11:21 PM
Maegan said:

"How do you know that?"
Because people are nuts. Statistics."

In other words, you don't know. It's FUN to make up things, isn't it?

Maegan, yes, there is crime in the U.S. but the actual crime rate has been going down for over a decade now, something that TV news doesn't exactly emphasize. Scare tactics = ratings.

I'm old enough to remember a time in America when "unusual" didn't automatically equal "dangerous." I plead guilty to the former, but not to the latter. Not everything that breaks the rules is a threat to you.

In the words of the late Frank Zappa, "Without deviation from the norm, progress is impossible."

I think a populace that is fearful of everything and everyone it tends to lead to fascism. I'm far more worried about the attempt to put a camera at ever intersection (as the mayor of Chicago recently promised to try to do in his city) than I am about the statistically remote possibility of being murdered.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  03:55 AM
By the way, the article says they dropped the trespassing charges. The only thing he's being charged with is stealing food. So what Cranky did might not have been illegal.

In my experience, most of the facilities at colleges that cost money (such as food, exercize equipment, etc.) require college ID to use. I'm kind of confused on how Vanegas was even able to get in the dining hall. Also, my college at least requires an ID swipe to get into the residential buildings, so people from the outside can't just walk into dorms.

College campuses are pretty much public places. People from the town use ours to walk their dogs, ride bikes, skateboard, etc. There's a difference between hanging out and freeloading, but it's a fine line and I think it depends on the administrators of the club/class/college. Those things are paid for by student's tuitions, so I can see how it gets complicated.
Posted by Iria  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  01:23 PM
When I moved to London to go to university 20 years ago (lord) my friend from school moved down too, to study medicine in central London. I can recall her describing a lot of thefts from the students, especially when they were in anatomy classes. Then someone in her group was diagnosed with a brain tumor and left the course to go home (abroad) to die with her family. Then the police turned up. It appeared that the person with the brain tumor had never been registered as a student, didn't have a brain tumor and was alive and well in West Norwood, which is not abroad. And she had gone to all the lectures, made lots of friends, then robbed them when they were in anatomy practicals (when registers were taken and bags etc. were left outside). So it can happen that non-students are around, and prepared to go to lots of lectures, for malign reasons (no offence to non-criminal non-students).
Posted by Sophie  in  London  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  03:32 PM
"I think a populace that is fearful of everything and everyone it tends to lead to fascism. I'm far more worried about the attempt to put a camera at ever intersection (as the mayor of Chicago recently promised to try to do in his city) than I am about the statistically remote possibility of being murdered."
Being fearful & being cautious are different.

Last I heard putting a camera in an intersection didn't cause harm to my physical body. I'm still more concerned with the (even remote) possibility that I could be killed by a nut - who probably never paid to go to college. :p
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  06:02 PM
Maegan said:

"Last I heard putting a camera in an intersection didn't cause harm to my physical body."

That isn't the "harm" to which I was referring. You can't have a "free" society with the government spying on you every minute.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  08:22 PM
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