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Louisiana Man Convicted of $1.4M Student Loan Fraud

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A Louisiana man was convicted last week for fraudulently obtaining over $1.4 million in financial aid by impersonating students.

Prosecutors said Elliott Sterling of Baton Rouge used the personal information of 180 candidates to fill out financial aid applications and enroll at Baton Rouge Community College from 2017 to 2019.

32-year-old Sterling took most of the money for himself, blowing $255,000 at casinos in Louisiana, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. 

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana convicted Sterling on financial aid fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering charges.  

Baton Rouge Community College said it hoped Sterling’s indictment would serve as a deterrent to those “seeking to deceive and misuse the federal student loan process.”

Accusations

The New York Times reported that Sterling first approached students in September 2017 and offered to help them enroll at Baton Rouge for a fee. 

Since most students did not qualify for federal aid, he falsified their academic details to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and collect federal grants. He also hired impersonators posing as students to visit the financial aid office to secure the aid.

In one case, Sterling collected $7,000 in financial aid but paid the student just $1,000. 

College spokesperson Kizzy Payton said they were first alarmed after BankMobile, which processes financial aid payments, alerted the FBI.

“We then partnered with the FBI and maintained our strong internal controls to help minimize the impact of the fraudulent activity and provided all the requested documents to support the investigation,” Payton said.

In addition to the student loan fraud, Sterling is also being tried for fraudulently borrowing $90,000 from the Small Business Administration for his “organization” by falsifying the company’s revenue and suggesting that it was hard hit by the pandemic-caused recession.

Appearing in court last week, Sterling told Louisiana newspaper The Advocate that he was innocent and was being framed for “making money.”

He is scheduled for sentencing on July 7.

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