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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  Attorney with over 20 years law enforcement, prosecution, civil rights and defense experience
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Heres my question: If someone contacts a professor at

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Here's my question:

If someone contacts a professor at a university, in order to gain that professor's services (editing a paper, reading a paper and critiquing it, etc.), and misrepresents him/herself as a student at a particular university, when that person is not a student at that university, can that person get in trouble with either state or federal law? So for example, Jane e-mails Professor Jones, who works at a university in another state, and asks Jones if he would help edit her paper for publication, and she tells Jones that she is a graduate student at Smith University, even though she is not. Jones tells Smith University, who contacts Jane, and threatens her with state and federal criminal prosecution if she does not stop representing herself as being from Smith University. Is it true she could in theory be prosecuted for lying to Professor Jones? Relevant state is Iowa, but I am also thinking of federal laws on computer fraud, such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, any federal statutes on wire fraud, things like that.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

In general, it is not a criminal offense to represent that a person is a student at a school. It is not a crime to lie to anyone in the manner you describe. If this was being done for some financial gain or monetary benefit that Jane would get from doing this, then it could potentially be considered fraud (wire or mail or computer fraud), but a monetary component has to be proven, she has to be doing it for some monetary gain.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Plus there's no realistic way Jane could be prosecuted in Iowa, if she's not even from that state? So for example, if Jane resides in California, and writing her e-mail from California to Professor Jones at Smith University, in, say, Michigan, says she is from the University of Iowa, then the laws of California would apply, or those of Michigan, right? Iowa can't do anything about it because nothing happened in Iowa?

Thank you for your response.

If the fraud was committed in Iowa, which it could be if the person she defrauded was in IA (theoretically) then IA could prosecute her and it does not matter where she wrote the email from or where she actually lives it matters where the person who received it actually lives. There would of course be some theoretical debate on whether the fraud was committed where she wrote the email or where the email was received, but generally if the person defrauded was in MI then generally MI and not IA could take charges against her.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX question and then I'm done. If Jane misrepresented herself further, by saying she was Joan (some fictitious person), would that change the equation at all? So for example, Jane writes to the professor and lies, saying (a) she is from Smith university when she isn't, and (b) says she is "Joan Jones," when she isn't. No attempt to defraud for any financial or economic reason is involved, only a request for the professor to read her paper, and to pay him an editorial fee for it. I'm just thinking of federal wire fraud statues:


Thanks again




Thank you for your response.

No, unless she defrauds him out of something monetary. So if she does not pay him for his services, this could potentially lead to such a charge (but with the feds it is small monetary value so of little interest to them).
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