DOJ cracks down on student loan fraud in three cases with $110k paid to some defendants

FRESNO, Calif. - The Department of Justice cracks down on student loan fraud in three cases.

Yvette Maura August, 53, of Atwater, California, and Kim Rene Gray, 51, of Los Banos, California, were sentenced Monday for student aid fraud.

August was sentenced to 25 months in prison and sentenced Gray to 28 months in prison.

In a separate case, Willie Sherman Prude, 53, and Deana Shirelle Nolen, 47, of Boron, California, were each sentenced to four years’ probation for their roles in another student aid fraud scheme.

These cases are the result of Department of Education Office criminal investigations aimed at shutting down federal student aid “fraud rings” that seek to exploit federal student aid programs.

According to court documents, August and Gray participated in a conspiracy with others to defraud the Department of Education of student aid grants and loans.

They submitted false financial aid applications to Axia College at the University of Phoenix and Capella University on behalf of students who did not intend to attend either school. In some cases the defendants used stolen or wrongfully obtained personal identifying information for persons who did not know their identities would be used to apply for college financial aid.

As a result of the conspiracy, more than $200,000 in grants and loans were disbursed, resulting in approximately $110,000 being paid to the defendants.

On July 11, a jury found co-defendant Keith Lazell Woolridge Sr., 41, of Fresno, guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The guilty verdict was returned by a federal court jury in Fresno after a three day jury trial.

The morning of trial, Piersha Woolridge, 34, of Atwater, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Piersha Woolridge is scheduled to be sentenced on September 23, 2013, and Keith Woolridge is scheduled to be sentenced October 31.

In the separate case, Prude and Nolen admitted that from April 2008 to March 2012 they conspired with other co-defendants to obtain federal student aid funds to which they were not entitled.

According to their guilty pleas, Prude fraudulently obtained student aid funds from Barstow Community College and Nolen fraudulently obtained student aid funds Cerro Coso Community College in Kern County and from Barstow Community College.

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