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Press Release

Pennsylvania Couple Sentenced To Prison For Using Stolen Identities To Scam Student Loan Money From Online Universities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – An East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, couple was sentenced to prison today for stealing $272,247 in student loan proceeds from Liberty University and American Public University by using stolen identities to direct the money to addresses where they could intercept it, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Stephanie Mitchell, 37, and Ronzell Mitchell, 38, were sentenced to 12 months and 28 months in prison, respectively. They previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb to separate informations charging each with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Judge Bumb imposed the sentences today in Camden federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From Aug. 19, 2010, through March 21, 2012, the Mitchells fraudulently obtained U.S. Department of Education (ED) funds for their own use. Stephanie Mitchell regularly used a box at a UPS Store located in Montvale, New Jersey, that was opened using the name and driver’s license of another person. The couple then contacted online universities Liberty and American and posed as students for whom student loans had been issued, causing the proceeds of numerous credit balance checks and debit cards to be redirected to the UPS Store and a vacant house located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Stephanie and Ronzell Mitchell admitted several specific instances in which they redirected student loans intended for others to addresses they controlled, fraudulently obtaining  $272,247 in ED funds.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Bumb sentenced the Mitchells each to three years of supervised release, fined them each $35,000, and ordered them to pay total restitution of $272,247, which has been paid in full.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the ED Office of the Inspector General, Northeastern Regional Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Hickey; inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates, and special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of James Mottola, Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Field Office, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencings.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah J. Gannett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit in Newark.

Defense counsel:

Ronzell Mitchell: Paul Brickfield Esq., River Edge, N.J.
Stephanie Mitchell: Susan Cassell Esq., Ridgewood, N.J.

Updated March 18, 2015