Million Dollar Student Aid Fraud Ring Busted

Handcuffed person
Eleven people have been charged for their roles in four Michigan-based student loan fraud cases, announced the U.S. Attorney’s office in a press release.

The four fraud rings, operating independently of one another between 2006 and 2010, amassed more than $1 million in fake financial aid.

The federal government said the main ringleader recruited more than 40 people to apply as students for enrollment and aid, despite the fact that most of the applicants lacked a high school diploma or a GED, making them ineligible to receive federal student aid. Participants in the main scheme received more than $665,604.00 in federal student aid. The main ringleader’s two brothers also planned a similar fraud scheme.

Student loan and financial aid fraud is easier to commit at certain higher education establishments. Institutions that participate in the federal student aid programs are not required by law to verify all prospective and enrolled students’ identities. Criminals are able to use the identities of multiple participants and target distance education programs that are based outside of their geographic area.

In order to go unnoticed, most fraud ringleaders target lower-cost educational institutions because the federal aid easily covers tuition and also includes funds for books, room and board. This balance is the funding that the ringleaders and participants are after and divided amongst themselves. 

Inspector General Kathleen Tighe of the U.S. Department of Education said she is proud of those who worked on the case to pursue those who abused the trust of American taxpayers.

“Student aid is not a slush fund for criminals; it provides an opportunity for honest, hard-working students who wish to make their dream of a higher education a reality,” Tighe said in the release. “My office is committed to fighting student financial aid fraud and we will continue to aggressively pursue those who cheat these vital aid programs.”

Barbara McQuade, U.S. Attorney for the Easter District of Michigan, agreed with Tighe.

“Taxpayers fund federal financial assistance programs to permit needy students to obtain a higher education,” McQuade said. “Stealing these funds robs students of educational opportunities and cheats members of the public from their investment in an educated population.”

Participants charged in the student loan and financial aid fraud case includes: Nina Cooks, 50; Sandra Roberts, 40; Jacquelyn Robinson, 60; Luther Hampton, 55; Ulysses Hampton, 49; Ulysses Hampton, Jr., 23; Brian Hickman, 45; Jason Watkins, 28; Candace Cureton, 61; Malayka Burks, 35; and Shirley Jimerson, 47.