A is for Accountable, F is for Fraud

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‘Straw students” are people who sign up for college classes, but do not have the intention of ever attending. The deceptive practice is used to collect financial aid funds, while skipping out on the learning part. (Even a dunce would know that’s not a smart thing to do.) A Department of Education press release details the story of a California woman who orchestrated a student loan fraud scheme and pocketed nearly $155,000 in financial aid funds before being caught.

The 32 year-old woman recruited some individuals who knew their personal information would be used to commit fraud. She then completed the necessary paperwork and online forms required to receive funding. However, other individuals did not provide consent, such as one person diagnosed with a moderate intellectual disability. This person happened to be residing at an assisted living facility with paid caretakers at the time she was registered for classes. The fraudster directed the financial aid to her debit card. This particular person’s financial information was later found at the fraudster’s residence. (She forgot the first rule of being a criminal? always destroy the evidence.)

The fraudster was found guilty of conspiring to commit student loan fraud and aggravated identity theft. She was sentenced to one year and three months in prison and was ordered to pay $154,596 in restitution. Five other defendants have also pleaded guilty in the case.

The bottom line is that we are all responsible for the actions that we take. We each have the opportunity to make good choices; however, this woman made some bad decisions and committed criminal acts for selfish reasons. It looks like she has failed her mid-term exam on character, but perhaps after serving time in prison she’ll pass her final exam on accountability in the school of hard knocks with an ”A.”

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release titled, ”Tracy Woman Sentenced to Over 4 Years in Prison for Student Loan Fraud Scheme,” released by Department of Education on December 3, 2013.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Janeigh Mendoza, 32, of Tracy, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton to four years and three months in prison for conspiracy to commit student loan fraud and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. Mendoza was also ordered to pay $154,596 in restitution.

According to court documents, Mendoza was part of a conspiracy to commit student loan fraud by recruiting straw students to sign up for college classes for the purpose of receiving financial aid funds. Mendoza completed the necessary paperwork and online forms necessary to obtain funds for individuals who never intended to attend classes. While some of the individuals Mendoza recruited agreed to have their identities used to commit fraud, other individuals had their personal information used to commit aid without their consent. One individual used by Mendoza had been diagnosed with moderate mental retardation and was residing in an assisted living facility with paid caretakers when she was signed up for college without her knowledge. Mendoza received the student aid funds of that individual on her debit card. Additionally, the personal financial information of that individual was found at Mendoza’s address in Tracy during the execution of a federal search warrant.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.