An Akron woman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for defrauding the U.S. Department of Education out of $1.8 million through a scheme where she and others enrolled prison inmates and people whose identities they stole in an Arizona community college in order to obtain financial aid.
Janice M. Shufford, 54, was sentenced to 81 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution. A jury convicted her earlier this year of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud following a trial.
Bridgid D. Sommerville, 48, and Christine M. Robinson, 39, previously pleaded guilty to related charges.
“These defendants lied on applications or used stolen identities to steal money that otherwise would have gone to deserving students,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Our office will continue to prosecute those who defraud the federal government.”
“These individuals engaged in fraud that resulted in over a million dollars lining their greedy pockets and not going to deserving, eligible students in need,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony. “The FBI will continue efforts to bring self-serving fraudsters to justice."
Financial aid is sometimes provided to eligible students by the U.S. Department of Education to help pay for college. This money can include living expenses, beyond the cost of tuition, that is sometimes disbursed via bank debit cards. In this case, those refunds were sent to addresses or bank accounts controlled by the defendants, according to the indictment.
The defendants conspired to obtain federal student financial aid money to which the recipients were neither eligible nor entitled. For example, people who are incarcerated, or have not received a high school diploma or GED are not entitled to receive federal financial aid, according to the indictment.
The defendants fraudulently enrolled hundreds of people at Maricopa Community College in Arizona between 2011 and 2015, according to the indictment.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian McDonough and Ranya Elzein following an investigation by the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.