Fair Game


Higher education degrees are expensive. Thankfully, federal student loans make the dream possible for many, but to date, there are more than 44 million student loan borrowers with about $1.3 trillion in debt. Some of that debt is due to criminals who have fraudulently applied for and received federal student aid they had no intention of paying back. An Arkansas woman did just that and collected more than $300,000 in student loan funds by victimizing her own relatives.

The woman submitted 21 separate applications for federal student loans over nearly two years. She forged the signatures of five people without their permission, including some of her relatives. (Anyone is fair game when it comes to fraud.) Because of her illegal acts, she received $333,416 in federal aid.

The 54-year old woman reached a plea agreement that involved her pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud. She admitted that she willingly and knowingly participated in the scam fully intending to defraud the federal government. She was sentenced to 33 months in prison to be followed by three years of probation. She must also pay $297,618 in restitution plus a $100 assessment fee.

There are many people who rely on the government to help them achieve their goal of earning a college degree. Criminals, like this woman, victimize innocent people by exploiting the dreams of those who legitimately deserve a chance at a better life through higher education. (For those who are thinking about committing the same crime, let ‘s hope that three years behind bars will promote this lesson ,anyone who tries to steal student aid is fair game and will be punished appropriately.)

Source: Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, “Arkansas Woman Sentenced to Almost Three Years for Student Loan Fraud,” posted on lendedu.com on April 21, 2017.

All eyes are focused on fixing the student loan debt problem, but student loan fraud is also alive and kicking. The latest example: an Arkansas woman who engaged in the practice back in 2011 was recently sentenced to federal prison for illegally receiving student loans.

According to a report in The Pine Bluff Commercial, Gina Renee Harper, a 54 year old resident of Jefferson County stole $333,416 from the federal government by forging a signature on 21 different applications for student loans. Harper was busted for the crime in February of 2011 and was sentenced last week to 33 months in prison and three years of probation following her release. Harper also has to pay $297,618 in restitution as well as a $100 assessment fee. Harper had reached a plea agreement last year which resulted in her pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud, noted the report. Harper also had to admit she willingly and knowingly participated in the scam with the intent to defraud. The fake student loan applications were filed beginning in 2005 and continued until August of 2007. Harper used the names of five people including relatives to obtain the loans including forging their signatures.

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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.