Atwater Woman Sentenced for Student Aid Fraud and Identity Theft
FRESNO, Calif. — Sherise Lanelle Woolridge, 33, of Atwater, was sentenced today for mail fraud and aggravated identity theft for her role in a student aid fraud scheme, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill sentenced her to four and a half years in prison and ordered her to pay $347,732 in restitution.
According to court documents, Woolridge participated in a scheme to defraud the United States Department of Education of student aid grants and loans. She submitted false financial aid applications to Axia College at the University of Phoenix and Capella University on behalf of students who did not intend to attend either school. She also used stolen or wrongfully obtained personal identifying information of another person to apply for college financial aid. As a result of the scheme to defraud, more than $370,000 in grants and loans were disbursed.
Federal student aid exists so that individuals can pursue and make their dream of a higher education a reality. It is not, as Ms. Woolridge just found out, a personal slush fund,” said Natalie Forbort, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Western Regional Office. “I’m proud of the work of OIG special agents and our law enforcement colleagues for holding Ms. Woolridge accountable for her criminal actions. Her sentence should serve as a warning to anyone who intentionally steals or misappropriates Federal student aid dollars: you will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
This case is the result of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s criminal investigations aimed at shutting down fraudulent schemes that seek to exploit federal student aid programs. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service assisted in the investigation. United States Attorney Mark J. McKeon is prosecuting the case.