Seven of the 15 people indicted last week by federal officials probing alleged college loan fraud are Colleton County residents, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Monday.
Those indicted caused the dispersal of more than $400,000 in college loans and grants to people never intending to go to college, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean H. Secor of the Charleston office said. He said each of the defendants was indicted in U.S. District Court of S.C. Charleston Division on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and financial aid fraud.
Indicted were Shannon Fishburne, 32, Marquita Fishburne, 23, Tameko Fishburne, 29, Shanean Glaze, 31, Lena Gant, 48, and Deena Holmes, 39, all of Walterboro; Cleo Fryar (also known as Cleo Cooper), 38, of Ruffin; Kourtney Fishburne, 26, of Davenport, Fla.; Sierra Thomas, 23, of Beaufort; Helen Ross, 41, of Williston; Betty Kinard, 61, of Allendale; Latanya Cochran, 40, of Orangeburg; Marvin Spell, 49, of Yemassee; and Mayella Saxon, 49, and Theresa Loadholt, 50, both of Fairfax.
Secor said Cochran, Spell, Gant and Holmes also were indicted on one count each of aggravated identity theft.
The grand jury returned a true bill last Wednesday, and the indictments were unsealed Friday, he said.
In a 25-page indictment, it is alleged that beginning in 2006, some of the defendants helped others take out student loans to attend online programs at the University of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University and Capella University. The defendants caused loans and grants in excess of $400,000 to be distributed to individuals who were not eligible to receive them, the indictment alleges.
Balance checks ranging from $219 to $4,703 were mailed to undisclosed addresses in North Charleston, Walterboro, Green Pond, Ruffin, Fairfax, Yemassee and Cottageville, the indictment states.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said student loans are to be used for tuition, fees and educational expenses.
Loan checks go directly to the schools, which in turn deduct tuition and fees. The schools then pass on the balances to students.
Secor said Monday that, for now, he cannot release more information about the case, and cannot answer questions.
He said aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory sentence of two years, which runs consecutively to other convictions. A maximum fine of $250,000 also may be imposed for aggravated identity theft in addition to the mandatory 2-year term of imprisonment.
The maximum penalty for the conspiracy charge is five years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine, Secor said.
The case was investigated by agents of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Secret Service.
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