A Temple University freshman was arrested for her alleged involvement in a charity scam that netted $25,000 over a three-month span.
Preshal Iyar, 19, was arrested at 12:36 p.m. on Feb. 8 in her Hardwick dorm room by Temple police. According to Lieutenant Robert Lowell, Iyar was fraudulently posing as a representative from the Make-A-Wish Foundation — a charity that helps children with terminal diseases — in order to scam elderly people out of their money.
She would call under the guise that they had won $100,000 from the foundation and asked them to send her the taxes that would be paid on the prize before they received their winnings, Lowell said.
Police found $25,000 worth of cash, checks, money orders and travelers checks in her dorm room. Lowell said that the individual didn’t request any exact sum, but told them how to go about finding the amount of taxes that would be taken out of the prize. Police allege Iyar began the scam in late December.
“We were given information to open up this investigation from an anonymous source,” Lowell said. “Our investigation led to these results.”
Police are not ruling out other suspects and the case is still under investigation.
Iyar did not return telephone calls by press time.
Lowell said that the case was turned over to the federal magistrate. A U.S. Clerk said that Iyar was released on $10,000 bail.
Her preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 22. The sentence for mail fraud, which is a federal offense, can be up to five years in prison or a $250,000 fine.
“We were the ones to find out someone was using our name in a scam,” said David Mulvihill, vice president and general counsel for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America. “We take it very seriously when someone uses our name without permission, particularly with a scam.”
Mulvihill said that he got a call from a Kentucky woman in late November saying she received a phone call from someone offering a $100,000 prize. The woman said that she was not the only person who was contacted. She said her friend received the same call.
According to a press release from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Iyar allegedly told each person that, “he or she must send thousands of dollars in cash to an address in Pennsylvania as a ‘showing of good faith’ before the prize money can be delivered.”
Mulvihill said it was thought that the scam was based locally in the Kentucky area. Lowell said that there were no local Philadelphia victims reported.
Lowell said that while Iyar has not been expelled, she is facing expulsion when she goes before the University Disciplinary Committee.
The UDC could not comment on Iyar’s case, but UDC Code vice-administrator Andrea Caporale did explain what she may be facing.
The process usually begins two weeks after the police have completed their investigation. She also said that the entire process takes a month at the most.
The student is notified and a pre-hearing conference is set up. This conference is an informal meeting and two members from the UDC are present.
Soon after an administrative hearing is given. An administrative hearing allows the student to claim responsibility, deny responsibility, or claim responsibility but disagree with the description of the charge brought against him or her.
“Every case is different,” Caporale said.
Caporale said that an expulsion is permanent and a suspension is temporary, usually lasting a semester or a year.
“You either get one or the other,” she said.
Alma Cosmeus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org