BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday announced the indictment of 21 people accused of participating in federal student aid fraud schemes at 15 schools, including Bakersfield College.
The indictments resulted from a U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General criminal investigation aimed at shutting down federal student aid fraud rings.
"Federal student aid exists so that individuals can make their dream of a higher education a reality, not for criminals to use as a personal slush fund," said Inspector General Kathleen Tighe in a statement released Tuesday.
Several of the alleged fraud schemes abused online education programs in which students are not required to be physically present on campus.
Prosecutors are pursuing seven separate cases against 21 defendants. Two of those cases involved Bakersfield College.
Shauna Marie Fabrega, 32, of Palmdale and April Lynn Myles, 35, of Lancaster both recruited individuals to pose as students and apply for federal student aid funds at Bakersfield College and other schools, according to the indictment. The recruited applicants were not students and did not attend classes at the colleges.
Fabrega and Myles also stole personal identifying information from individuals without their knowledge and used it to apply for aid, according to prosecutors. The money is supposed to be for books, room and board, commuting and other educational expenses, but instead the women pocketed the money, according to the indictment.
Myles also applied for funds in her own name and enrolled herself in courses at Bakersfield College and Santa Barbara Community College even though she was not eligible to enroll at the schools because she is not a high school graduate, according to the indictment.
Fabrega's activity cost the Education Department $70,000, and Myles cost the department $80,000, according to the Justice Department.
The defendants are charged with a variety of felonies, including conspiracy, financial aid fraud, identity theft, mail fraud and wire fraud.