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Press Release

Howard University Graduate Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Financial Aid Office

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON – Brian Johnson, 35, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty today for his role in defrauding Howard University out of more than $100,000, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin and James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.

            Johnson pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Johnson faces a likely recommended sentence of 10 to 16 months in prison.  The plea agreement calls for Johnson to pay $107,697.75 in restitution and $53,849 in a forfeiture money judgment.

            According to the statement of offense filed with the Court, Johnson earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Business Administration from Howard University. From 2011 through 2016, he worked in the school’s Financial Aid Office. He served as the Associate Director of Financial Aid from 2014 through August 2016. In the fall of 2016, a co-conspirator, who worked at Howard from 2011 through 2017 in the Financial Aid Office and then the Bursar’s Office, proposed a scheme to Johnson in which the co-conspirator would cause fraudulently-obtained money to be sent from Howard University to Johnson, with Johnson then kicking back half of the proceeds to the co-conspirator. As part of the scheme, the co-conspirator applied fraudulent financial aid awards onto Johnson’s student profile even though he was no longer a student or employed at the school. As a result, the co-conspirator caused the University to issue $107,697.75 to Johnson’s bank account between November 2016 and May 2017. Johnson admitted sharing half of the fraud proceeds with the co‑conspirator in the form of cash or electronic payments.

            Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell accepted Johnson’s guilty plea and scheduled his sentencing for September 25, 2020.

            In announcing the plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Sherwin and Special Agent in Charge Dawson commended the work of those from the FBI’s Washington Field Office who are involved in this ongoing investigation. They also expressed appreciation for the work of Paralegal Specialist Mariela Andrade and former Paralegal Specialist Brittany Phillips. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Kondi J. Kleinman.

Updated July 18, 2020

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 20-081