News and Press Releases

Browns mills, n.J., woman sentenced to more than five years in prison for $1.7 million student loan scam

April 26, 2012


CAMDEN, N.J. – A Browns Mills, N.J., woman was sentenced today to 61 months in prison for 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.

La’Vada Cruse, 25, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jerome B. Simandle to an Information charging her with one count of mail fraud, two counts of tax evasion, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Judge Simandle imposed the sentence today 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 permission. Of the $1.7 million she sought, Cruse successfully obtained 17 student loans and received more than $192,000.

Cruse stated in her applications 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 a person listed as the co-borrower. Cruse also included phony employment letters as well as fake pay stubs and co-borrowers’ tax forms. She used her actual home 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.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Simandle sentenced Cruse to five years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $136,403.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited postal inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Karen V. Higgins; special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge JoAnn S. Zuniga; 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 today’s sentencing.

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

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