On March 18, 2021, Andi Schreibman, Las Positas, Financial Aid Officer sent an email to the Las Positas faculty and staff about potential financial aid fraud at LPC. Dean Ho noticed that a large number of first-time students were registered in a late starting online class. Ho suspected financial aid fraud.
Financial aid fraud is a huge problem. A report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Education in 2013 estimated that $200 million is lost each year in financial aid fraud. The people and rings that commit the fraud often target colleges with online classes. Online classes are targeted as the students don’t have to show up in class. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges, including Las Positas, shifted to online classes.
In the current case, Ho in reviewing class rosters noticed that in one class half the students had similar email addresses. The e-mail accounts were a student’s name at Outlook. Outlook is not a popular e-mail address for students, a quick check of the 240 e-mails addresses in one student club’s contacts list, only one has an outlook email address.
A review of other classes found 86 people registered in classes at LPC which have been identified have the potential for fraud. It is suspected that the students do not exist, one person or a ring is registering for the classes and submitting financial aid applications.
Las Positas College notified the Inspector General for the Department of Education of the suspected fraud. The Inspector general is hosting an ongoing investigation.
A request to Las Positas College for further information has been denied as publishing the details could impede the investigation. No official comment has been made by LPC thus far.
Las Positas College was the known victim of financial aid fraud in 2014. In 2014 what tipped off the college was the students did not show up to class nor turn in any work. 23 of 44 students in one class were suspected to be committing fraud.
Typically a student will register for classes and submit a financial aid application. The fraud ring’s goal is to obtain a Pell Grant as Pell grants do not have to be repaid as an education loan does. Once the financial aid is approved and the student gets a check, they then drop the classes.
In the 2014 case, four people were indicted for committing financial aid fraud against Chabot and Ohlone colleges and City College of San Francisco. The total fraud was over $700,000. They are named Kyle Moore, Cortio Wade, Marcel Bridges and Derricka Fluker. All four pleaded guilty. Moore, the ringleader, was sentenced to 37 months in prison and to pay restitution of $520,904. Bridges were sentenced to one year in prison and to pay restitution of $73,087. The sentences of Wade and Fluker are unknown.
The maximum penalty for each count of conspiracy to commit financial aid fraud: Five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution.
The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is twenty years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution.
Pell Grants are federally funded. The requirements to get a Pell grant are to need exceptional financial need, be a US Citizen or eligible non-citizen and work towards a degree. Persons with a bachelor’s or higher degree are generally not eligible.
Enrolling in classes to solely obtain financial aid not only is fraud against the taxpayers but also can deny a legitimate student a seat in the class if the class is full.
Alan Lewis is the photo editor of The Express. Follow him @AlanLew89343503.