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Press Release

Denton County Woman Sentenced for Student Loan Fraud

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

PLANO, Texas – A Denton, Texas, woman has been sentenced for student loan fraud in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei today.

Tiffany O’Neal, 47, pleaded guilty on Nov. 19, 2020, to student loan fraud and was sentenced to five years of federal probation and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $234,113.00 by U.S. District Judge Sean D. Jordan on May 17, 2021. 

“Funds earmarked for student financial aid provide critical educational and professional opportunities for students,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.  “The Eastern District of Texas is committed to ensuring that those funds serve that purpose.  However, when those funds are diverted or stolen, this case shows that EDTX, along with its law enforcement partners, will take action and hold those responsible.”

“Ms. O’Neal knowingly and willfully abused her position of trust for personal gain and in doing so, defrauded the school, the Federal student aid program, and America’s taxpayers. She’ll now be held accountable for her criminal actions,” said Edd Cole, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Southwestern Regional Office.  “OIG Special Agents will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue those who seek to enrich themselves with Federal education funds. America’s students, their families, and taxpayers deserve nothing less.”

According to court documents, between 2012 and 2017, O'Neal was both a student at the University of North Texas as well as an employee in their financial aid office.  In this role, she had the ability to approve and reject financial aid awards and grants.  During this time, she submitted fictitious expenses relating to her husband's financial aid application, approved financial aid awards to her husband to which he was not otherwise entitled, and awarded monetary grants to her husband that he should not have received.  In addition, she fraudulently obtained additional funds in her own financial aid packages.  In sum, she misappropriated approximately $230,000 in funds that were earmarked for federal financial aid grants.     

This case was investigated by the Department of Education Office of Inspector General and prosecuted by the Plano office of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas. 

Updated May 18, 2021