Columbus, GA

Four Conspirators Plead Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Dept. of Education Fraud


Four conspirators have pleaded guilty to a multi-million dollar fraud scheme involving federal financial aid from the Department of Education.
Credit: Marko Geber (Getty Images)

The IRS Criminal Investigation division shared an official release with details of the case against Sandra Anderson, of Palmetto, Georgia, Yolanda Thomas, of Columbus, Georgia, Leo Thomas, of Phenix City, Alabama, and Kristina Parker, of Stone Mountain, Georgia.

The foursome and additional co-conspirators fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in federal student loans that they misused for personal gain. To accomplish this, they created a sham high education institution -- the non-existent Columbus, Georgia, satellite campus of the Apex School of Theology.

The four operators of the scheme fraudulently "enrolled" students who did not qualify for undergraduate or graduate programs. Per the IRS:

The co-conspirators then fraudulently completed financial aid applications in students' names and completed students' homework and exams. The co-conspirators also served as teachers and manipulated student grades to ensure that the purported students could meet the minimum grade requirements to continue to qualify for federal financial aid. Then, the co-conspirators either stole student financial aid refund checks outright or required students to cash their aid checks and provide a portion to the co-conspirators.
Credit: Edward Olive (Getty Images)

Anderson, Yolanda Thomas, and Parker each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and four counts of financial aid fraud. Each conspiracy and wire fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, which each financial aid fraud charge has a maximum sentence of five years behind bars.

Leo Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.

All defendants in the case are scheduled to be sentenced on December 15, 2022.

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