All eyes are focused on fixing the student loan debt problem, but student loan fraud is also alive and kicking. The latest example: an Arkansas woman who engaged in the practice back in 2011 was recently sentenced to federal prison for illegally receiving student loans.
According to a report in The Pine Bluff Commercial, Gina Renee Harper, a 54 year old resident of Jefferson County stole $333,416 from the federal government by forging a signature on 21 different applications for student loans. Harper was busted for the crime in February of 2011 and was sentenced last week to 33 months in prison and three years of probation following her release. Harper also has to pay $297,618 in restitution as well as a $100 assessment fee.
Harper had reached a plea agreement last year which resulted in her pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud, noted the report. Harper also had to admit she willingly and knowingly participated in the scam with the intent to defraud. The fake student loan applications were filed beginning in 2005 and continued until August of 2007. Harper used the names of five people including relatives to obtain the loans including forging their signatures.
While Harper’s case goes back many years, the same type of student loan scam still goes on today. And it’s not surprising given the cost of a college education and the amount of debt students are left with upon graduation. Recent data from LendEDU found student loan borrowers owe an average of $28,000 in debt, with the national debt bill hovering around $1.41 trillion. In Arkansas, graduates owe $26,173 on average with 57 percent owing at least one student loan. Aside from one District in the state—District 3—all of the state’s districts have less than average student loan debt.
The Arkansas woman is just the latest in a string of convictions stemming from student loan scams. In March, a Georgian woman was sentenced to more than six years in a federal prison for student loan fraud. The Georgian woman received $200,000 in financial aid by stealing the identities of unsuspecting victims and filing fake student loan applications. The scammer was only caught when she inadvertently signed her own name on an application for a stolen identity. She had applied for over $500,000 successfully before the inadvertent application, receiving $200,000. She was able to steal identities through a patient database at a healthcare company where she was employed for a short period of time.
In the same month a federal grand jury in Macon, Georgia indicted Queen Adeboyejo, a 63-year old former high school teacher after she pleaded guilty to student loan fraud. Adeboyejo reportedly couldn’t get a Direct PLUS student loan from the Department of Education so she committed fraud to earn her Doctorate degree. The defendant used social security numbers and birth dates of three individuals and then designated them as cosigners on federal aid applications without their consent or knowledge. She allegedly received $17,828 through one loan application, $75,166 from another and was in the process of obtaining $150,000 fraudulently from one more.
Author: Donna Fuscaldo
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