Five individuals were sentenced yesterday for conspiring to defraud the U.S. Department of Education’s financial aid programs of over $12 million in federal funds.
According to court documents, from around August 2010 through May 2018, the defendants created and ran an elaborate sham university – the Columbus, Georgia, satellite campus of Apex School of Theology (Apex Columbus). Anderson, the former Director of Apex Columbus, enrolled hundreds of individuals who were not qualified and who had no desire to obtain a theological education to pose as students. The defendants and their co-conspirators then worked together to fraudulently complete financial aid applications in students’ names and to complete students’ homework and exams. After falsely ensuring that the sham students would receive federal financial aid, the defendants either stole student financial aid refund checks or required students to cash their aid checks and provide a portion to the co-conspirators. During the course of the conspiracy, the Department of Education issued approximately $12 million in fraudulently procured financial aid.
|Sandra Anderson, 63||Hampton, Georgia||108 months in prisonThree years of supervised release|
|Yolanda Brown Thomas, 51||Columbus, Georgia||63 months in prisonThree years of supervised release|
|Kristina Parker, 35||Stone Mountain, Georgia||Four years in prisonThree years of supervised release|
|Erica Montgomery, 49||Fort Mitchell, Alabama||51 months in prisonThree years of supervised release|
|Leo Frank Thomas, 56||Phenix City, Alabama||Three years in prisonThree years of supervised release|
All five defendants were also ordered to pay, jointly and severally, $11,821,022 in restitution to the Department of Education.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary for the Middle District of Georgia; Special Agent in Charge Keri E. Farley of the FBI Atlanta Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Reginald J. France of the Department of Education Office of Inspector General (ED-OIG), Southeastern Regional Office; and Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
The FBI, ED-OIG, and IRS-CI investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Leslie S. Garthwaite and Trial Attorneys Siji Moore, Spencer Ryan, and Matt Kahn of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case, with valuable assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.