Former SA candidate pleads guilty to first-degree fraud

Former GW student Ed Meinert, once a very active member of the GW community, pled guilty to two counts of fraud last month.

He ran for Student Association president last spring and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, was a member of the Colonial Cabinet and interned on Capitol Hill, former friends of his said.

But what others could not see hiding behind Meinert’s active role at GW was the student who was allegedly using their credit card numbers, checks and social security numbers, said 1999 graduate Keith O’Neil, a former friend of Meinert.

Meinert pled guilty to two counts of first-degree fraud Oct. 7 and he awaits sentencing Dec. 13, according to the Superior Court of Washington, D.C. The strictest penalty Meinert can receive is 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to Metropolitan Police.

I can tell you that I am very sorry for these actions and understand that they demonstrated poor judgement and character, Meinert wrote in e-mail. I have spent much time contemplating these events and can tell you that I have made every effort since then not to repeat and learn from these mistakes.

Meinert wrote in an e-mail that he pled guilty to two felony counts in relation to monies illegally obtained from the United States Senate Federal Credit Union.

Meinert declined further comment.

According to two affidavits that Meinert signed April 16, he owed two friends a total of $1,093.

He lived a life full of mis-truths and half-truths, O’Neil said.

O’Neil said he and other friends of Meinert realized in early April that their friend had been using their credit cards without authorization and wrote an $8,500 check to himself using one of their checkbooks.

(Meinert’s) like a parasite to the world, said the friend of Meinert whose check was used. Nothing was too low or too illegal. The friend, who graduated in 1999, said he wanted to remain unidentified.

O’Neil said they noticed the stolen check and extra charges on the credit cards in early April and called MPD. Meinert was brought in for questioning and released the same day, O’Neil said.

We had to take legal action or we’d never see our money again, O’Neil said.

O’Neil said he was informed May 7 that Meinert, who had left D.C. and was in Boston, took out a $16,466 student loan using O’Neil’s credit history and social security number. Capitol Hill Police called Meinert in Boston and told him if he did not return to D.C., officers would come to Boston and arrest him, O’Neil said. Meinert flew to D.C. and turned himself in to the police.

Representatives from Capitol Hill Police declined comment.

Colin Van Ostern, an acquaintance of Meinert, said Meinert also used his credit card number to accumulate $250 in Take-Out Taxi and Armand’s Pizza charges. Van Ostern said he confronted Meinert about the charges and told Meinert he would not report the crime if he received full reimbursement in cash. Meinert paid him back, and Van Ostern never filed a report with the police, Van Ostern said.

Meinert’s former friends, who said they felt betrayed by Meinert’s actions, said they were unsure of his motives. They said Meinert was financially burdened when he ran for SA president.

It made an already bad situation worse, O’Neil said.

His former friends said Meinert’s desire for an extravagant life contributed to his financial difficulties.

He’s like the Great Gatsby in that he wasn’t anything he said he was, and he loved money, but comparing him to a literary character is giving him too much credit, said Tom Mullaney, a former friend of Meinert.

Mullaney said Meinert bounced checks often but would come up with money out of nowhere.

Former friends said Meinert would often hand out $50 bills to homeless men, buy clothes because he didn’t want to do laundry and lose cell phones like they were candy.

He wanted to be like an aristocrat, and he wanted to be a prince, said the friend from whom Meinert stole a check. He’s not even a real person. His entire life is something he’s created.

According to Meinert’s homepage and e-mail signature, he is currently a Harvard University undergraduate with an expected graduation date of 2002. But according to the Harvard University Registrar’s Office, Meinert is not registered as an undergraduate. He is registered in the Harvard extension school, an evening part-time study program held on an open-enrollment basis.

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