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Feds crack down on local student aid fraud rings | Crime

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Feds crack down on local student aid fraud rings
Crime

SACRAMENTO, CA - Nine valley residents have been charged with defrauding the U.S. government of hundreds of thousands of dollars in college student aid.

The individuals have been indicted in three cases brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California, in Sacramento.

* In U.S. V. Michelle Wright et al, federal prosecutors allege Michelle Wright, 31; Kenneth Wright, 34; Jaymar Brown, 33; Jennifer Brown, 54; Brandy Miner, 36, all of Stockton, and Janeigh Mendoza, 31, of Tracy, used straw students and their own names to apply for and obtain Federal Student Aid funds for which they were not eligible. Some of the straw students were severely handicapped individuals who could not read or write or attend college. Two of the defendants, Wright and Mendoza, are accused of stealing personal identifying information to seek more FSA funds.

The defendants are alleged to have received more than $285,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to which they were not entitled.

The illegal activity took place from July 2007 to June 2011, according to the indictment.

* Per U.S. v. Brent W. Wilder et al., Brent W. Wilder, 43, and Michael J. Huddleston, 43, both of Antelope, recruited more than 50 straw students between February 2009 and April 2012 to apply for student aid at American River College, Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College. The indictment also charges the defendants also used the identities of prison inmates to apply for school aid.

The loss to the department was tallied at more than $200,000, with half going to Wilder and Huddleston and half to the straw students.

* In U.S. v. Stacey Jacobs et al., a federal indictment charges Stacey Jacobs, 29, of Elk Grove, and a San Leandro man with using straw students to apply for student aid at various community colleges. The funds were sent directly to Jacobs or her associates, prosecutors allege.

The alleged scheme began Aug. 1, 2009 and continued to Dec. 31, 2011. Jacobs, her associates and her co-defendant fraudulently obtained $66,000 in student aid funds, the indictment reads.

Lauren Horwood, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, says in all, 17 individuals have been indicted in student aid fraud cases in the past 35 days in Sacramento and Fresno federal court.

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