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Judge: 29-year-old who posed as teen student because she was lonely can enter pretrial program

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) — A 29-year-old woman accused of using false documents to enroll as a New Jersey high school student and attend some classes over a four-day period will be allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program, a state judge ruled Monday.

The woman had pleaded not guilty in March to a charge of providing a false government document. Her lawyer has said she did so because she was lonely and longed to return to her days with friends in school but now realizes she made a mistake. She will have to undergo a mental health evaluation and, if she completes the program, the charge against her could eventually be dismissed.

The woman is a South Korean citizen who came to the United States by herself when she was 16 to attend a private boarding school, the lawyer said. She later graduated from Rutgers University in 2019.

The lawyer said his client had no nefarious intentions when she enrolled at New Brunswick High School in January. She was just seeking to return to “a place of safety and welcoming and an environment that she looks back on fondly,” he said.

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Authorities have said the woman got the phone numbers of students who helped her find her way through the school and continued to text some of them days after her ruse was discovered. She was barred from entering school grounds in the district and officials have advised students to not have any contact with her.

The woman provided district officials with a false birth certificate when she enrolled, officials have said. The district has nearly 10,000 students.

Schools in the state are required to immediately enroll unaccompanied children, even in the absence of records normally required for that purpose. Proof of guardianship is also not needed to immediately enroll an unaccompanied youth. Once enrolled, students have 30 days to provide additional proof of identity.