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Four plead guilty to defrauding U.S. Department of Education

Four people pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Education of millions of dollars by creating a sham university. Photo by Tdorante10/Wikimedia Commons
Four people pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. Department of Education of millions of dollars by creating a sham university. Photo by Tdorante10/Wikimedia Commons

Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Four individuals created a sham university and then fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in federal financial aid for their own use, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.

Sandra Anderson, 63, Yolanda Thomas, 51, Leo Thomas, 56, and Kristina Parker, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. Department of Education's financial aid programs of millions of dollars in federal funds.

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According to their plea, they created a fake school in Columbus, Ga., which was supposed to be a satellite campus of the Apex School of Theology. They enrolled individuals at Apex who posed as students and fraudulently completed financial aid applications.

"The co-conspirators also served as teachers and manipulated student grades to ensure that the purported students could meet the minimum grade requirements to continue to qualify for federal financial aid," the Department of Justice said.

"Then, 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."

Anderson, Yolanda Thomas and Parker each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and four counts of financial aid fraud.

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They each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy and wire fraud charges, and five years in prison on each of the financial aid fraud charges.

Leo Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

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