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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Ohio

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Euclid woman sentenced to more than five years in prison for $200,000 college student aid fraud and identity theft

A Euclid woman was sentenced to more than five years in prison for a college student aid scam in which she fraudulently obtained more than $205,000.

Elizabeth Westmoreland, 69, was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison. She previously pleaded guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

“This money was supposed to be used to help legitimate students pay for tuition and cover the cost of books and supplies,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “This defendant got hundreds of thousands of dollars because she is a scammer. This prison sentence is deserved.”

Westmoreland, from 2013 through 2017, recruited “students” whose identities she could use to fraudulently enroll them at several community colleges, including Lakeland Community College, Owens Community College, University of Rio Grande and Edison State Community College. At least one “student” was incarcerated while he purported to attend Lakeland, according to court documents.

Westmoreland applied for financial aid using the fraudulent students. This aid covered the cost of tuition and other fees, which were sent directly to the schools, but also additional expenses, such as money for books, supplies, transportation and other fees. This money was sent from the U.S. Department of Education directly to the students, according to court documents.

As part of the conspiracy, Westmoreland and the fraudulent students split the proceeds of the student aid money. Westmoreland arranged for and/or personally completed the coursework online so the students continued to receive aid, according to court documents.

The checks were mailed to addresses controlled by Westmoreland, then she and other would transport the recruited fraudulent students to various locations to cash the checks and split the proceeds, according to court documents.

The U.S. Department of Education was defrauded approximately $178,476 and the Social Security Administration was defrauded approximately $27,267 as part of the conspiracy, according to court documents.

This case was investigated by the Social Security Administration -- Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Education -- Office of Inspector General, Postal Inspection Service and Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert Kern and Danielle Angeli.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Mike Tobin 216.622.3651 michael.tobin@usdoj.gov
Updated November 20, 2018