ANTELOPE VALLEY – Antelope Valley residents are among 21 individuals indicted for conducting federal student aid schemes that defrauded the government of more than $1 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The prosecution is part of a federal investigation aimed at shutting down student aid “fraud rings” that seek to exploit federal student aid programs.
“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,” said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in a statement. “Those who rip off federal aid funds can expect to find themselves in a prison cell instead of a classroom.”
The announcement highlights the cases charged in the last 35 days.
Shauna Marie Fabrega, 32, of Palmdale, is charged with bilking the Department of Education out of more than $70,000.
According to the indictment, Fabrega recruited individuals to act as straw students and to apply for federal student aid funds at Bakersfield College, Cerro Coso Community College, and Santa Barbara City College.
The recruited applicants were not students and did not attend classes at the colleges. Fabrega also committed identity theft and used the information to apply for federal student aid funds, according to the indictment.
She used prepaid debit cards in the names of the enrolled students to receive the funds and had the cards sent to her residence. Some colleges also sent checks directly to Fabrega’s residence, according to the indictment.
April Lynn Myles, 35, of Lancaster, scammed the Department of Education out of more than $80,000, according to the indictment.
Myles allegedly recruited individuals to act as straw students and to apply for financial aid at Bakersfield College and at Santa Barbara Community College. The applicants were not students and did not intend to attend classes.
Myles also applied for student aid funds in her own name and enrolled herself in courses at Bakersfield College and at Santa Barbara Community College. But she was not eligible to enroll in the courses because she was not a high school graduate, according to the indictment.
Myles is also accused of using stolen identities to apply for financial aid.
Five more defendants are accused of committing fraud through Antelope Valley College and other institutions, which resulted in a collective loss of more than $130,000 in federal grant funds, and more than $70,000 in federal student loan funds.
The defendants are Erisheniqua Dixon, 20, of Boron; Deana Shirelle Nolen, 46, of Boron; Willie Sherman Prude, 52, of Boron; Cheaney Lavell Key, 48, of El Cajon; and Stacey Kinyada Lee, 30, formerly of North Edwards.
They conspired to enroll themselves and others as straw students at four community colleges to obtain federal financial aid funds to which they were not entitled, according to the indictment.
The defendants also enrolled in online classes that they did not intend to complete and obtained federal Pell Grant and student loan funds based on the false aid applications.
The 21 defendants in the indictments announced Tuesday are charged with a variety of felony offenses, including conspiracy, financial aid fraud, identity theft, mail fraud and wire fraud.