A woman posing as a professor of psychology has been jailed for conning prospective students out of almost £8,000 in tuition fees. 52-year-old Jacqueline Crane of Cornwall, U.K. pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, benefit fraud and perverting the course of justice relating to an 18-month course that she started in May, 2012. Claiming to have a doctorate in psychology from Plymouth University, Crane tricked seven mature students to pay as much as £2,000 apiece for training that would supposedly qualify them as counselors.
Even after her arrest, Crane's con artistry continued. She invented fake children to claim benefits and forged sick notes from a doctor to keep from going to court. These notes reportedly showed that she had "life-threatening conditions" to explain her absence from court. According to the testimony presented by her former students in court, Crane recruited them by showing them false pictures of her in a graduation cap and gown. In the program itself, she often set bizarre tasks such as climbing trees, taking candlelit baths, cycling in the rain, and starting random conversations with complete strangers. One of these students, 35-year-old Jessica Brewster, told reporters at the Daily Mail that there were hints from the beginning that something was wrong.
"One of the girls kept pointing out that there were spelling mistakes on these slides and asking where she had got them from. Jacqui didn't like that," Brewster said. The truth only came to light after her students examined old exam papers and found that Crane had substituted one of them for an actual exam. She was arrested after the students filed a complaint.
Crane has been sentenced to twelve months for the fraud against her students and another three months for perverting the course of justice and benefits fraud. The sentences will run consecutively. In handing down this sentence, Judge Simon Carr said that her scam was "a fantasy from beginning to end." He also said: "You prepared a significant amount of bogus course material to defraud a series of students into the belief you were running a counselling course" and that the money the students spent to improve their education has been "completely wasted."
Though her lawyer argued in court that Crane had been a fantasist since childhood and accept responsibility for her actions, her students said that her sentence should have been longer.