Fraudster University

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Multiracial students are walking in university hall during break and communicating.

Nothing excites kids more than to hear “School is closed!” because that inevitably means vacation is underway. But in the case of the school created by Sandra Anderson, Yolanda Thomas, and Kristina Parker, “School is closed” really is just that. Closed. Because it was never open in the first place.

Anderson, Thomas, and Parker fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in federal financial aid funds that they used for their personal benefit. They did so by creating an elaborate sham university – the Columbus, Georgia, satellite campus of the Apex School of Theology. The co-conspirators admitted that, at Anderson’s direction, they enrolled individuals at Apex who agreed to pose as students with the promise of “free money”.

Anderson and team would fill out application packets to their “Fraudster’s University” for each fake student using the recruits’ real information, including their names, birth dates and social security numbers. In some cases, they submitted fake GEDs to satisfy the requirement for a high school diploma. To make the process seem complete, each fraudulent application included “spiritual autobiographies” personally written by our fraudsters, who apparently didn’t write ones for themselves!

The co-conspirators also served as teachers, complete students’ homework and exams, and manipulated student grades to ensure that the purported students could meet the minimum grade requirements to continue to qualify for federal financial aid.

Once the fake students were “admitted”, the co-conspirators filled out applications for Federal Student Aid, winning Pell Grants and obtaining federal student loans. The co-conspirators either stole student financial aid refund checks outright or required students to cash their aid checks and provide a portion to the co-conspirators. Court documents indicate the co-conspirators stole between $9.5 million and $25 million in financial aid funds over the course of their eight-year scheme.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on article “3 Ga. women created fake college, stole fake students’ financial aid in fraud scheme, DOJ says” published by WSBTV on September 29, 2022

Three Georgia women pleaded guilty Thursday in a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Education’s federal financial aid programs. The U.S. Department of Justice said Sandra Anderson, 63, of Palmetto; Yolanda Thomas, 51, of Columbus and Kristina Parker, 35, of Stone Mountain, pleaded guilty in the elaborate scheme involving a sham university. Leo Thomas, 56, of Phoenix City, Alabama, also pleaded guilty in the case.

Prosecutors said the group a sham university, the Columbus, Georgia, satellite campus of the Apex School of Theology. Apex, which has since been shut down, was a private for-profit school that offered programs in theology, Christian education, divinity and more.

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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.