DOVER, Del. (CBS) — A former Delaware State University official admitted to taking bribes to lower tuition for out-of-state students, costing the school and taxpayers millions of dollars. Crystal Martin worked in the registrar office at Delaware State. On Wednesday, she pleaded guilty to bribery, after swindling the university out of $3 million.
Each year, more than 4,000 students attend the university. Of them, several hundreds took part in a bribery scheme to lower their tuition with the help of Martin.
“I’m at a loss for words, what can you say about that?” former student Justin Thomas said.
Martin pleaded guilty to one count of federal program bribery in federal court. She was accused of accepting upwards of $70,000 in bribes from students over a four-year period from 2013 to 2017, in exchange for changing the addresses and registration status from out-of-state to in-state.
Court documents show that, with the help of an unnamed co-conspirator, Martin swindled the historically-black college of $3 million.
“It’s crazy because there’s a lot of students that actually had to pay hard-working money for this school, and you have a person that’s just taking money and switching their addresses, it’s pretty unfair,” student Christopher Chaplain said.
Between Martin and the co-conspirator, they would negotiate terms with the students. So instead of paying approximately $17,000 in out-of-state tuition, the students paid less than half — only $8,000.
“That’s a significant discount,” said David Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware.
Weiss prosecuted the case.
“We’ve known about the scheme and had investigated it over the last 12 to 18 months and we decided to resolve it today with Ms. Martin,” Weiss said.
Martin is out on her own personal recognizance. Eyewitness News showed up at her home in Felton but she wasn’t interested in speaking. Now that she’s pleaded guilty, she awaits her sentencing.
“Hopefully, the message is you gotta play by the rules. It’s critical to our universities. It’s critical that the public have confidence in our institution so if you don’t play by the rules, there’s a penalty that needs to be paid,” Weiss said.
It’s not clear if the several hundred students involved will have to pay the out-of-state tuition rate.
Martin will be sentenced on July 1. She could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.