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Former Delaware State University employee pleads guilty in tuition bribery scheme

The scheme, which ran from 2013 to 2017, cost the university an estimated $3 million, authorities said.

A former Delaware State University employee pleaded guilty to taking more than $70,000 in bribes to help incoming out-of-state students reduce their tuition bill by falsely identifying them as in-state students.

Crystal Martin, who worked in the registrar's office, allegedly accepted bribes from a co-conspirator in exchange for her changing the registration status of hundreds of students who did not live in Delaware, the U.S. Attorney's Office District of Delaware said in a press release Wednesday.

Martin allegedly forged residency documents which allowed students to receive an in-state rate. Tuition for out-of-state students is more than two times the amount in-state students pay, the department said.

Crystal Martin
Crystal Martinvia LinkedIn

For the 2018-2019 school year, tuition for full-time undergraduate in-state students was $7,868 for the year, according to the school's website. Tuition for out-of-state students was $16,904 for the year.

"State universities have the right to offer benefits to in-state students in the form of reduced tuition; they also have the right to expect their employees to uphold and support their mission," U.S. Attorney David Weiss said. "And Delaware taxpayers have the right to expect honest services from our public employees – when those employees fall short of these expectations my office will hold them accountable."

The scheme, which ran from 2013 to 2017, cost Delaware State University an estimated $3 million, authorities said.

A spokesperson for the school told NBC News that Martin was an associate registrar and they ended her employment in March 2017.

“We are aware of the guilty plea of Crystal Martin, a former Delaware State University employee, and have been working in close cooperation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office," the spokesperson said. "Given the ongoing criminal proceedings, the University cannot comment at this time.”

Martin pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday to bribery and is scheduled to be sentenced in July. The maximum sentence for the crime is 10 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

The news comes after 50 people, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were criminally charged in connection with a $25 million college admission scandal in which they allegedly paid to have someone cheat for their children on college exams or recruit the incoming students as athletes even though they did not play sports.

Huffman and 13 other defendants are expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, the Department of Justice said earlier this month. Earlier this week, Loughlin pleaded not guilty to federal charges she laundered money.