News and Press Releases

Four Ringleaders of a $680,000 Online College Student Financial
Aid Fraud Conspiracy Sentenced to Federal Prison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2012

Contact Person: Dean Secor (843) 727-4381

Columbia, South Carolina---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that the four ringleaders of an online college student financial aid fraud conspiracy have been sentenced to terms in federal prison. All four were convicted of Conspiracy to Commit to Commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Student Financial Aid Fraud, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371.  United States District Judge David C. Norton was the presiding judge for the sentencing hearings, which were held in federal court in Charleston, South Carolina. On September 21, LENA GANT, age 48, of Walterboro was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $133,175.25 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education. On October 15, LATANYA COCHRAN, age 41, of Orangeburg was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $130,280.25 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education. On November 5, SHANNON FISHBURNE, age 33, of Walterboro was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $39,196.35 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education. On September 27, SHANEAN GLAZE, age 32, of Walterboro was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day and ordered to pay $116,797.17 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education.
         
The following co-defendants have also been sentenced by United States District Judge Norton for their roles in this conspiracy: MARQUITA FISHBURNE, age 28, of Walterboro was sentenced on September 21 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $15,132.75 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; DEENA HOLMES, age 40, of Walterboro was sentenced on September 24 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $7,880.00 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; CLEO FRYAR, a/k/a CLEO COOPER, age 39, of Walterboro was sentenced on September 24 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $19,279.50 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; SIERRA THOMAS, age 24, of Green Pond was sentenced on October 15 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $23,675.89 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; KOURTNEY FISHBURNE, age 27, of Orlando, Florida was sentenced on October 15 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $20,208.20 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; TAMEKO FISHBURNE, age 29, of Walterboro was sentenced on October 15 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $14,244.50 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; MARVIN SPELL, age 50, of Yemassee was sentenced on October 17 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $7,459.00 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; MAYELLA SAXON, age 53, of Fairfax was sentenced on November 5 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $2,897.38 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education; and HELEN ROSS, age 42, of Williston was sentenced on November 7 to 5 years of probation and ordered to pay $6,358.63 in restitution to the U.S. Department of Education.
         
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearings established that LENA GANT and LATANYA COCHRAN were the two main ringleaders of the conspiracy. SHANEAN GLAZE and SHANNON FISHBURNE were also ringleaders of the conspiracy. The conspirators caused to be recruited individuals known as “straw students” who were told that they could get thousands of dollars in student financial aid without having to take online college courses. The “straw students” included family, friends, and co-workers of the conspirators. For example, TAMEKO FISHBURNE, an employee at that time of South Carolina Department of Corrections, Allendale Correctional Institution, recruited four of her Allendale Correctional Institution co-workers, including HELEN ROSS and MAYELLA SAXON, to participate in the conspiracy. The conspirators used the personal information of the “straw students” to file false online college admissions applications and federal student financial aid applications in the names of the “straw students.”  As a result, the conspirators caused student loans and grants and student aid credit balance refund checks to be issued in the name of the “straw students.” The conspirators were paid through “fees” taken from the student aid credit balance refund checks received by the “straw students.” The conspirators caused at least $680,000.00 of student loans and grants to be disbursed in the names of ineligible individuals.

“Federal student aid exists so that legitimate students can make their dreams of a higher education a reality - not to be used a slush fund for criminals,” said Yessyka Santana, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Southeastern Regional Office. “I’m proud of the work of our OIG special agents and our colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for holding these people accountable for their criminal actions.”  “Financial fraud is a top priority of this office.  We will continue to work with law enforcement to expose fraudsters who prey on our federal programs.”

The case was investigated by agents of the United States Department of Education-Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Secret Service.  Assistant United States Attorney Dean H. Secor of the Charleston office handled the case.


Return to Top

Community Outreach

Our nation-wide commitment to reducing gun crime in America.

Project Safe Childhood

Help us combat the proliferation of sexual exploitation crimes against children.

Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee

Training and seminars for Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.