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Bogus letters claim staff, student 'investigations'

STANFORD -- At least four Stanford faculty members received phony letters Friday, May 3, falsely claiming that members of their departments were under investigation for "potentially serious wrongdoings" in connection with University finances.

The following Monday, May 6, several dozen students reported receiving similar fraudulent letters telling them they faced "Judicial Board" hearings for unspecified incidents.

In both cases, the phony letters were signed "Myron Kesselbaum." In student letters, he is identified as "Student Conduct Officer," and in the faculty letters as an investigator working for President Donald Kennedy.

Sally Cole, Stanford's real judicial affairs officer, said that several students were upset to the point of tears, and that her office had received telephone calls from concerned students and parents.

"It (the letter) is so haughty and officious and so vaguely threatening without actually saying anything," Cole said. "It has all the indications of a Cal prankster with a warped sense of humor and money for postage."

The letters that went to students and faculty both contain vague references to the University of California-Berkeley.

The letters sent to the faculty members purport to be from a "Special Investigative Services" division of the Stanford president's office. No such division exists.

Stanford Police Chief Marvin Herrington asked that anyone receiving suspicious letters (for example, one with the return address "SIO/OP, 1868 Hibernia Way, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94309-2219") turn them over unopened to the police department.

The letters claimed to the faculty members that the purported office had "uncovered evidence linking members of your department to potentially serious wrongdoings" in connection with federal scrutiny of Stanford accounting practices.

The letters also falsely stated that the University had retained the services of "Chang, Lin, McKusak & Tien" to assist in the investigation and that a representative of that firm would contact the letter recipients.



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