Six Defendants Charged in Scheme to Defraud Student Loan Programs of Over $12 Million

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Six former administrators from the Columbus, Georgia, campus of the Apex School of Theology were charged in an indictment unsealed Monday for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud student loan programs of more than $12,000,000.

Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler of the Middle District of Georgia, Special Agent in Charge J.C. Hacker of the FBI’s Atlanta Division, Special Agent in Charge Neil Sanchez of the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (DOE-OIG), and Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey, of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Atlanta Division made the announcement.

According to the indictment, Erica Montgomery, 47, of Ft. Mitchell, Alabama, Sandra Anderson, 61, of Columbus, Georgia, Leo Frank Thomas, 54, of Columbus, Georgia, Yolanda Thomas, 50, of Columbus, Georgia, Dorothy Webb, 68, of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kristina Parker, 33, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, were charged by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Georgia with one count of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, and five counts of financial aid fraud. Anderson and Montgomery were also charged with money laundering. 

The indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a scheme to operate an off-site learning center in Columbus, Georgia, on behalf of Apex, a now-defunct school offering programs in theology and other subjects. As part of the scheme, the defendants allegedly recruited individuals with offers of “free money” to act as fake “students” and fraudulently apply for federal financial aid. The indictment alleges that these “students” were told that they did not have to do any work or attend classes, but they would have to split their financial aid with the defendants, who used federal financial aid funds to personally enrich themselves.

The indictment further alleges that the defendants submitted plagiarized work for the “students,” took their tests, and logged on to the school’s web site as if they were the “students” to deceive the DOE into believing they were real students making adequate academic progress. The defendants falsified admission packets and applied for federal financial aid in the names of the students, falsely certifying that they were the student and that the financial aid would be used for educational purposes. Instead, the financial aid was used to enrich the recruited “students” and the defendants. The indictment alleges that the defendants defrauded the DOE of at least $12,000,000 in taxpayer funds.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The FBI’s Atlanta Division, DOE-OIG, and IRS-CI’s Atlanta Division investigated this matter.  Senior Litigation Counsel David A. Bybee of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford Seals of the Middle District of Georgia are prosecuting the case. 

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