Akron women indicted for defrauding Department of Education out of $1.8 million through financial aid scheme
A 23-count indictment was filed charging three Akron women with defrauding the U.S. Department of Education out of $1.8 million through a scheme where they enrolled inmates and people whose identities they stole in an Arizona community college in order to obtain financial aid, law enforcement officials said.
Janice M. Shufford, 53, Bridgid D. Sommerville, 47, and Christine M. Robinson, 38, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and multiple counts of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
“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.
As a result of the conspiracy, the Department of Education was defrauded and sustained a total loss of at least $1,826,064, according to the indictment.
If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendants’ prior criminal record, if any, the defendants’ roles in the offense, and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian McDonough following an investigation by Special Agents of the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.