On June 27, three San Bernadino women were arrested for allegedly "creating" 235 college students and stealing over $1 million in student aid.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Central District of California, the three women, along with their co-conspirators, would collect information and enroll a “student". They would then apply them for a Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA). Once approved, the school would then disperse any money not used for tuition and fees to the accused.
At least $1,089,856 in student aid funds were disbursed by the U.S. Department of Education to Fullerton College for the 235 straw students associated with this fraudulent scheme. The school then placed $977,792 on debit cards that were sent to the defendants and their associates.
It was said in the press release that two of the "students" that the group applied to Fullerton College were in fact inmates at a California state prison.
In August 2014, according to the indictment, Nelson submitted a FAFSA form online to the Education Department that used the personal identifying information of a straw student who in fact was a state prisoner. In September 2014, Nelson allegedly activated a debit card in the prisoner’s name and subsequently used the debit card to make a $370 payment to her Southern California Edison account.
The three defendants are:
- Sparkle Shorale Nelson, 32.
- Shykeena Monique Johnson, 31, a.k.a. “Shy.”
- Jerrika Eldrena Lashay Johnson, 37, a.k.a. “Muffin,” “Big Sis,” and “Jerrika Carter.”
Each one of the three women faces a maximum sentence of 300 years if found guilty on all counts which include crimes such as wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft.