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3 Women Charged in $1M Student Financial Aid Fraud

July 2, 2019
by Susan Dutca-Lovell
3 Women Charged in $1M Student Financial Aid Fraud

Three San Bernardino County women who have been accused of stealing $1 million in federal financial aid from Fullerton college, in California, have been arrested by the U.S. Justice Department and are charged with various counts of mail and wire fraud. The scheme involved enrolling hundreds of mainly non-existent students, successfully applying for grants and loans and pocketing the money.

After being indicted by a federal grand jury, the three women pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, counts of mail and wire fraud; they also face charges of aggravated identity theft and financial aid fraud. Sparkle Shorale Nelson, Shykeena Monique "Shy" Johnson, and Jerrika Eldrena Lashay "Muffin" Johnson allegedly filed online requests for college financial aid using their names, stolen identities, and the identities of at least two inmates in California state prisons, according to the indictment. A Department of Justice news release also noted that the "vast majority" of the people enrolled at the college never attended classes. Though a Fullerton College spokesperson claimed she was unaware of the case, the college had dealt with identical scams before.

The defendants and un-indicted co-conspirators obtained the names and Social Security numbers of 234 "straw students" and used their personal information to enroll them at Fullerton and other colleges in 2013 and 2014. After applying online and qualifying for federal government financial aid, the funds were sent to the college, which then deducted tuition and fees from said amount and sent the remaining balance to the fake students via debit card or paper check. In this case, the defendants received the debit cards, accompanied by a PIN that could be used to activate the cards online. Nelson allegedly activated one card issued in the name of a prisoner, using it to pay a $370 Southern California Edison bill. In total, the defendants collected $1,089,856. If convicted, all three women face statutory maximum sentences of more than 300 years in federal prison.

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1 Comment(s)

Nancy K.  on  7/7/2019 3:26:47 PM

How could these women steal that much money without being caught sooner? How could they get the money without attending classes? It don't make sense to me about how they got somuch money without attending classes because where I am from if you don't attend classes you don't get your refund, a month have to go by before any money is sent to the student. That's why I am puzzles about how these ladies got so much money without attending classes. They must have been so busy ladies and greedy to go thru all the motions to get one million dollars and then have to split it three ways. I hope it was worth it....ops was it?

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