A Failing Grade


Think back to your college days. Remember your fall semester? Groups of students were probably walking through the campus on their way to class, backpacks on and minds open. The lively setting was full of books, new sneakers, to-go coffees and fraud. Wait…fraud? According to an article written by AL.com, college isn’t just homework and parties anymore. No…some prospective students are more interested in easy money than an education are trying to bilk the federal government for thousands of dollars in cash by committing student loan fraud.

Here’s where things stand with the story? while many students are sweating midterms and papers, one Alabama resident is sweating her upcoming court date for sentencing in connection with her recent plea to charges of student loan and mail fraud. The article reported that an Alabama woman recently pleaded guilty to defrauding ”the U.S. Department of Education by obtaining student loans with no intention of completing classes or pursuing a degree.’? In making her plea, she explained that she used the names of other individuals to falsely apply for federal financial aid at three colleges? The investigation found that the fraudster and ”other purported students” (a.k.a. the names of the student she used to file for student aid) received around $73,000 in financial aid between March and September 2010, as well as $17,000 in loan refunds. (She should teach a class on entrepreneurship…or maybe come back after serving her sentence and teach a class on the implications of fraud.)

Student loan fraud combined with mail fraud could command a hefty sentence; this failing student fraudster could face up to five years in prison for swindling money on student loads, as well as up to 30 years in prison for committing mail fraud. Prosecutors recommended the judge apply the ”low end of the sentencing range.”

Plea bargain or not, the fraudster clearly failed to follow the law – if you steal, especially from the federal government, you will be punished. If this were a test, I’d give her an ”F.’? An ”F” for ”fail,” an ”F” for ”fraud” and an ”F” for ”find out what it’s like behind bars.’? There is no retest.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Huntsville Woman Enters Plea Agreement on $73,000 Alleged Student Loan Fraud,” written by Brian Lawson and published by AL.com on October 1, 2012.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Huntsville woman entered a plea agreement today with federal prosecutors in connection with charges she defrauded the U.S. Department of Education by obtaining student loans with no intention of completing classes or pursuing a degree.

In the plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham, Michele Denise Hawkins, admits applying for federal education loan dollars and using the names of other individuals to falsely apply for financial aid.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.