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Press Release

North Carolina Man Sentenced for Misappropriating Identities to Defraud Federal Student Aid Program

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. – A Clayton, North Carolina man, Jerry Lynn Johnson, Jr., was sentenced today to 53 months in prison and three years of supervised release for organizing and leading a fraudulent scheme to obtain, and attempt to obtain, over $400,000 in federal financial aid funds.  On August 2, 2022, Johnson pleaded guilty to the charge of mail fraud and aiding and abetting.  As part of the judgment, Johnson was also ordered to pay $289,403 in criminal restitution to the U.S. Department of Education (ED). 

“This defendant fraudulently used other people’s identities to apply for student aid to attend numerous colleges, taking advantage of a system meant to help poor and disadvantaged citizens get a college education,” said U.S Attorney Michael Easley.  “We should be proud to live in a country that has programs in place to help people fulfill their dreams of attending college.  We will zealously guard the integrity of those programs and prosecute those who take advantage of our country’s generosity to line their pockets at taxpayer expense.  let this be a warning to financial fraudsters - scamming our education system will get you a full ride to federal prison.”

"I’m proud of the work of OIG special agents and our law enforcement colleagues for shutting down yet another student aid fraud ring and holding the ringleader accountable for his criminal actions,” said Terry Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Eastern Regional Office. “The OIG is committed to fighting student aid fraud, and we will continue to aggressively pursue those that participate in these types of crimes."

Federal Student Aid (FSA) is the ED office responsible for administering financial aid programs to assist qualified students with pursuing post-secondary education, including grants, loans, work study funds, and other disbursements.  FSA also develops, distributes, and processes the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form or “FAFSA”.  After a school applies a financial award to a student’s tuition and fees, any remaining balance is refunded to the student for education-related expenses.

According to court documents and other information presented in court, between approximately 2016 and 2019, Johnson used the personal identifying information of multiple individuals— “straw students”—to falsely and fraudulently apply for financial aid to attend various post-secondary schools, including American Public University in Charles Town, West Virginia, Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, and Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Johnson submitted the FAFSA in the names of the straw students while concealing his identity as the preparer.  After the financial aid packages were approved, Johnson assumed the identities of the straw students to enroll them in classes, complete required coursework, and otherwise maintain the illusion of attendance and bona fide efforts to complete the chosen degree program for the purpose of enriching himself with the associated student aid refunds.  In furtherance of the scheme, Johnson diverted over $190,000 in refunds to North Carolina addresses under his control.  

Michael Easley, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after sentencing by United States District Judge Louise W. Flanagan.  The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, investigated the case.  Assistant United States Attorney Adam F. Hulbig prosecuted the case for the government.

Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:21-CR-61-FL.


Updated January 26, 2023

Financial Fraud