Scam­mer who used in­mates’ IDs for loans con­victed

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kirk Mitchell

A Phoenix man who used the birth dates and So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers of prison in­mates in Colorado and other states to get $582,000 in fed­eral stu­dent loans has been con­victed of fraud.

A jury in Den­ver U.S. Dis­trict Court jury on Nov. 30 found Tramel Thomas guilty of one count of con­spir­acy to de­fraud the gov­ern­ment and six counts of aid­ing and abet­ting mail fraud. Thomas faces up to 20 years in prison for each mail fraud charge and 10 years in prison for con­spir­acy.

Three co-con­spir­a­tors — Heather Carr, Mercedes Diaz, and Mar­celle Green — had al­ready en­tered guilty pleas to sim­i­lar charges, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease by Jef­frey Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. At­tor­ney Bob Troyer.

“These thieves re­ceived a well-de­served ed­u­ca­tion in fed­eral jus­tice,” Troyer said in the news re­lease.

The sus­pects vis­ited cor­rec­tional web­sites in Colorado, Ari­zona, Florida, Illi­nois and Ohio to get birth dates of con­victs serv­ing prison terms. They looked for in­mates who had lengthy prison terms, be­liev­ing they would be less likely to dis­cover the scam.

One of the sus­pects, who worked at a bank, ac­cessed the pris­on­ers’ So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers at work, Dorschner’s news re­lease says.

Thomas and the other sus­pects then filed 181 fake Free Ap­pli­ca­tions for Fed­eral Stu­dent Aid re­quests un­der pris­oner names seek­ing $1.3 mil­lion in stu­dent aid through com­mu­nity col­leges in Colorado and Ari­zona.

The U.S. Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ment ap­proved $582,000 worth of stu­dent loans. Of that the con­spir­a­tors re­ceived $419,000 in the form of debit cards.

“Fed­eral stu­dent aid ex­ists so that in­di­vid­u­als can pur­sue and make their dream of a higher ed­u­ca­tion a re­al­ity, it’s not a per­sonal slush fund,” said Adam Shanedling, spe­cial agent in charge of the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice of the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion’s west­ern re­gion.

In­spec­tor gen­eral agents con­tin­u­ally look for peo­ple who steal stu­dent aid or “game the sys­tem for their own self­ish pur­poses,” Shanedling said.

Postal in­spec­tors, who in­ves­ti­gate preda­tory fraud schemes through the mail, also as­sisted in the stu­dent aid fraud case, Den­ver re­gion act­ing U.S. Postal In­spec­tor in Charge Nicole Davis said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.