Choosing a college is an exciting part of growing up. You have finally reached an age where you will make major decisions. According to an ABC-23 article, one California woman took her decision-making to an extreme, not only affecting her life, but also the lives of individuals she used in a student loan fraud scam.
College can be an overwhelming experience for many first-time students; you’re faced with choices about classes, extra-curricular activities and even social opportunities. At the age of 35, our fraudster wasn’t too worried about what to wear to class or what party to attend. Instead, she was more concerned about obtaining personal identities to continue her fraud scam. (She could teach a class on going to jail.) According to court documents, the fraudster recruited individuals to act as straw students by applying for Federal Student Aid (FSA) funds at two local California schools. Officials stated that the individuals in the scam were not actual students and had no intention of attending school. (Just like our fraudster, who also had no intention of going to prison. Oops.) But, how was the fraudster able to get away with the fake applications?
The key to many good scams lies within the secrecy of the act. The fraudster not only convinced individuals to apply for FSA funds as straw students, but she also applied for funds in her own name, and enrolled in classes she was ineligible for because she was not a high school graduate. Court documents reveal that the fraudster obtained personal identification information from individuals without their knowledge and used it to apply for FSA funds. The scam cost the U.S. Department of Education over $80,000 in a 16-month period. A judge sentenced her to spend 18 months in prison and pay $84,167 in restitution. (Finally – a sentencing that lasts longer than the amount of time that the fraud was committed.)