Impersonating a College Student


Last October a group of new Rice University students went to Six Flags AstroWorld. Among them was David Jovani Vanegas, a sophomore transfer student from UT. No one knew him too well since he lived off campus, but he was friendly. When the group got lost between the Light Rail and the park entrance, Vanegas hung around. He was a political science major, he told his new friends. He mentioned he was really glad he got into Rice.

At least, that’s what he said. Now, roughly a year later, the group knows that none of that information is true. On September 13, Rice police arrested Vanegas for criminal trespass. Turns out he wasn’t an actual Rice student but a 20-year-old impersonator. Starting last September, Vanegas began eating in Rice’s dining halls, hanging out with students and attending classes. Some nights, he crashed in friends’ dorm rooms when he was too tired to go home.

Most of the campus learned about Vanegas’s arrest in the undergraduate newspaper, The Rice Thresher. Vanegas’s friend, senior Daniel Rasheed, turned him in to the police, the paper reported. Rasheed himself had transferred to Rice the previous winter. For the past six months, he’d doubted Vanegas’s student status.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” Rasheed told the Thresher. “I just thought they’d be like, ‘Okay, he’s not a student.'”

The university is doing more than that, though. On the day of Vanegas’s arrest, criminal trespass charges were filed against him (but later dismissed). Within the next few weeks, campus administrators alleged that Vanegas had taken close to $3,700 worth of food from Rice cafeterias. On September 28, the district attorney’s office filed felony charges for aggregate theft. Bail was set at $2,000.

(via The Museum of Hoaxes)


  1. I know when I went to college, the cafeteria would check your ID before they let you in. No ID, no food. I assume he didn’t have a fake ID and they just let him in and steal $3700.

  2. I knew a guy who pulled a version of this at my school in 1991 or so. He wasn’t trying to get free food (no one would be that dumb – the food sucked) but he was trolling for a social life. It was creepy. He would hang out in the library, talk to us girls, etc. We’d see him out and about, at events, etc.

    Before long, of course, a friend of a friend came by, and it turned out she had worked with the creep’s brother in Manitoba. She started asking him and his brother a lot of specific questions, and the guy was totally busted.

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with hanging out on a campus (it’s fun and interesting, after all!) but to make up a fake identity, major, career experience, etc., is just bizarre. Before he was busted we thoght he was dorky. Once we knew we thought he was pathetic.

  3. Good grief, this country has become so stupid and tyrannical. In the old days, the college hanger-ons were often more interesting than the students and profs.

  4. I’m not really understanding what the problem is with this guy hanging out at a college and sitting in on the classes. My professors used to encourage this, they called it auditing and said anyone could do it at any time – whether or not they were students. As for the food, I always paid for my own meals out of pocket. The only other way I know of to get food out of the cafeteria was a “meal plan” that was an option when you paid tuition. However, you had to have a special swipe card for that. I think these people are nuts for pressing felony charges against this kid. What a load of crap.

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