Scholarships for Sex

Financial aid director at North Idaho College arrested for using Craigslist to solicit students.

February 20, 2015

The financial aid director at North Idaho College was arrested this month and fired for offering to trade scholarships for sex with a student. However, the student wasn't real.

Joseph Bekken was arrested and jailed on charged of attempted misuse of public funds, attempted procurement of prostitution, burglary, using a computer in a scheme to defraud and bribery.

According to a police report, authorities tracked him down after spotting an ad on Craigslist in the Casual Encounters section that left officers thinking that a faculty member might be inappropriately approaching students at the college, known by its acronym, NIC. The ad indicated a willingness to help a range of students: "Hello. I have a proposition for NIC students. E-mail me and we can discuss." He then specified that he would be open to women, men or couples.

Authorities then contacted the college, which reported that officials there had been told of a similar post last year, which they at the time believed to be from a faculty member. But they were unable to track down the sender. This time, the college created a fake e-mail account in a student's name so that police officers could communicate with the person who had posted the Craigslist ad. In e-mail exchanges, the man later identified as Bekken wrote: "I have some grant money that I can get applied to your account. I just look for some fun in return."

Police officers continued the discussion -- in the name of a fake student named Sheryl Roberts. They also found out that Bekken had asked someone in his office to help find some scholarship funds for him to give to Roberts, and that he managed to do so. (The employee in the office was unaware of why Bekken allegedly wanted the funds for this particular student.)

E-mails continued to be exchanged, with Bekken describing himself as an English instructor. At one point, the person authorities identified as Bekken wrote: "I'm really antsy honestly. I've never done something like this and I hope it doesn't come back to bite me. Anyhow, I hope you are discreet and I will be too. If this works, we can keep it going for future semesters."

Eventually, a meeting was set up, and police officers then questioned Bekken, who turned up at an address expecting to meeting Roberts. The police report says he admitted that he had sent $587 to an account set up for Roberts (the fake student), in the hope of having sex with her, and the transfer of funds was verified. The money was from the college's foundation. Bekken said that he had been trying to do this with past Craigslist ads for several semesters, but that the fake Roberts was the first student who had agreed to a meeting.

Joe Dunlap, president of the college, issued this statement: "The individual charged in this case is no longer an employee of the college and North Idaho College has been cooperating fully with law enforcement from the very beginning of the investigation. I am grateful for the knowledge and training of our staff that resulted in a swift and decisive response to this incident."

Bekken could not be reached for comment, and did not respond to an e-mail message, but the police report indicated that he did not deny involvement. He was insistent, the police report said, on the source of funds being the foundation. "Joseph was adamant there were no federal funds in his propositions," the police report said.


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