By Denny Walsh
A crackdown on student aid fraud in California was announced in Sacramento today by U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner and U.S. Department of Education Inspector General Kathleen Tighe.
They said 21 individuals have recently been indicted in Sacramento and Fresno for participating in student aid fraud schemes at 17 schools. The prosecutions grew out of investigations by Tighe's office aimed at shutting down fraud rings seeking to unlawfully exploit the federal aid programs offered to students.
"Federal student aid exists so that individuals can make their dreams of a higher education a reality, not for criminals to use as a personal slush fund," said Tighe at a press conference.
"Preserving federal student assistance funds for deserving students is critical," said Wagner. "At this time of year, as college students begin classes at schools throughout the state, it is important to send the message that fraud against student assistance programs will not be tolerated. Those who rip off federal aid funds can expect to find themselves in a prison cell instead of a classroom."
Today's announcement highlighted six cases charged in the last 35 days. The 17 defendants in those cases are alleged to have obtained more than $770,000 through fraud. A seventh case involving four defendants was charged earlier this year. That indictment accuses the four of collecting approximately $110,000 they were not entitled to.
All seven cases allege frauds perpetrated in the 34 counties that make up the Sacramento-based Eastern District of California. Three of the cases are pending in Sacramento federal court and four in Fresno federal court.