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Daily Court Reporter - News Akron woman sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for defrauding the U.S. Department of Education out of $1.8 million by enrolling prison inmates and others in Arizona community college

 

Akron woman sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for defrauding the U.S. Department of Education out of $1.8 million by enrolling prison inmates and others in Arizona community college

An Akron woman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for defrauding the U.S. Department of Education out of $1.8 million through a scheme where she and others enrolled prison inmates and people whose identities they stole in an Arizona community college in order to obtain financial aid.

Janice M. Shufford, 54, was sentenced to 81 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution. A jury convicted her earlier this year of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and wire fraud following a trial.

Bridgid D. Sommerville, 48, and Christine M. Robinson, 39, previously pleaded guilty to related charges.

“These defendants lied on applications or used stolen identities to steal money that otherwise would have gone to deserving students,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “Our office will continue to prosecute those who defraud the federal government.”

“These individuals engaged in fraud that resulted in over a million dollars lining their greedy pockets and not going to deserving, eligible students in need,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony. “The FBI will continue efforts to bring self-serving fraudsters to justice."

Financial aid is sometimes provided to eligible students by the U.S. Department of Education to help pay for college. This money can include living expenses, beyond the cost of tuition, that is sometimes disbursed via bank debit cards. In this case, those refunds were sent to addresses or bank accounts controlled by the defendants, according to the indictment.

The defendants conspired to obtain federal student financial aid money to which the recipients were neither eligible nor entitled. For example, people who are incarcerated, or have not received a high school diploma or GED are not entitled to receive federal financial aid, according to the indictment.

The defendants fraudulently enrolled hundreds of people at Maricopa Community College in Arizona between 2011 and 2015, according to the indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian McDonough and Ranya Elzein following an investigation by the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

About the United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio

The Department of Justice is the nation's litigator, serving but one client, the United States. The United States Attorneys serve as the Department's principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. There are 93 United States Attorneys stationed in judicial districts throughout the United States and its territories. United States Attorneys are appointed by, and serve at the discretion of the President of the United States, with advice and consent of the United States Senate. Each United States Attorney is the Chief Federal Law Enforcement Officer of the United States within his or her particular jurisdiction.

United States Attorneys conduct most of the trial work in which the United States is a party. The United States Attorneys have three statutory responsibilities under Title 28, Section 507 of the United States Code:

the prosecution of criminal cases brought by the Federal Government;

the prosecution and defense of civil cases in which the United States is a party; and

the collection of debt owed to the Federal Government.

Although the caseload varies among districts, each has every category of cases and handles a mixture of simple and complex litigation. Each United States Attorney exercises wide discretion in the use of his or her resources to further the priorities of the local jurisdictions and needs of their communities.

The Northern District of Ohio consists of the 40 northern counties in Ohio. The U.S. Attorney's office (USAO) for the district is located in Cleveland, Ohio and there are staffed branch offices in Toledo, Akron and Youngstown. The office is divided into organizational units with specific responsibility for carrying out the mission of the office.

Date Published: December 4, 2018

 

The United States Attorneys Office Northern District of Ohio

 

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