FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 28, 2011
CAMDEN, N.J. – La’Vada Cruse admitted today to orchestrating a scheme in which she filed more than 90 fraudulent student loan applications seeking a total of more than $1.7 million, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Cruse, 24, pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with one count of mail fraud, two counts of tax evasion, and one count of aggravated identity theft. She entered her guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle in Camden federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Cruse admitted that beginning in December 2003 and continuing through 2007, she applied for more than 90 student loans in her name or in the names of individuals – including family members – whose names, social security numbers and dates of birth she used without their permission. Of the $1.7 million she sought, Cruse successfully obtained 17 student loans and received more than $192,000 during the course of the scheme.
In the false student loan applications, Cruse stated that she was a full-time student at one of six New Jersey-area colleges, including Burlington County College. In many of the applications, she included a fake college enrollment letter and fraudulent biographical, employment, and financial information for an individual listed as the co-borrower. Cruse also included phony employment letters as well as fake pay stubs and co-borrowers’ tax forms.
When Cruse applied for loans in others’ names, she used her address so the loan proceeds would be forwarded to her.
Once the student loan applications were approved, banks and lending institutions issued checks – for as much as $22,000 – and Cruse deposited them directly into one of the bank accounts she controlled. Cruse admitted she evaded paying taxes on the loan proceeds for the 2005 and 2006 tax years.
Cruse faces a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the mail fraud charge, and five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each of the tax evasion charges. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison consecutive to any other sentence. Cruse is currently scheduled to be sentenced on November 4, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Karen Higgins; special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff; inspectors of the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, New York Field Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Ryan; the Medford Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Richard J. Meder; and the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi, with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew T. Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.
Defense counsel: Maggie Moy Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Camden