Makquel D. Gailes, a 43-year-old woman from Alexandria, La., has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for a scheme that relieved college students of $22,000, as if the poor lads and lasses of higher education didn’t have it bad enough with looming student debts and the rising costs of tuition.

Gailes charged fees to college students and pocketed the money for herself, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Louisiana. U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell passed the sentence, which was actually 12 months and one day, if we’re getting technical, for mail fraud. She also received three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $22,707 as restitution.

Gailes was employed as a financial aid officer for Unitech Training Academy in Alexandria from January 2009 to December 2011. Her “scheme” worked like this, according to the court’s website: When a student’s federal financial aid exceeded school cost and expenses, she requested refund checks from Unitech for the students. Gailes then received the refund checks through the United States Postal Service and sent a notification to affected students that it was time to pick up their payments.

Naturally, there is nothing students love more than getting money, even if it means they have to give up a part of the payment as a miscellaneous “fee” of some kind. That’s what happened here. Gailes would tell students they owed additional money in fees whenever they would go to pick up their checks. Some of these fees included fake graduation fees, promissory note fees, or out-of-pocket expenses.

Gailes advised the students to pay through cash. Not all fell for it, but again, these are students so many of them did. Money-in-hand, she would never apply the payments to a student’s account — if the debt was actually real — and she kept every dime she could get her fingers on.

With that now described, it is actually pretty ingenious. Right opportunity, vulnerable victim, several seemingly unnoticeable amounts that add up over time rather than overplaying one’s hand — we’d say give the lady a job teaching financial literacy, except for the whole getting caught part.

(Featured Image: A. Golden/Flickr Creative Commons)