A Fresno man was recently sentenced for his actions in a student loan fraud scheme. Keith Lazell Woolridge, 41, was convicted in July of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft in furtherance of the scheme. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii to serve three and a half years in federal prison.
Court documents indicate that Woolridge, along with others, undertook the scheme by submitting false financial aid applications Axia College at the University of Phoenix and Capella University on behalf of students who had no intention of attending any of the schools. In some cases people’s personal identifying information was stolen without their knowledge, with those personal identities then being used to apply for federal financial aid. The fraud resulted in more than $300,000 in fraudulent grant and loan applications being submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, with over $100,000 being disbursed and paid to Woolridge and other co-defendants in the case.
Woolridge’s conviction stemmed from a criminal investigation conducted by the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Education, whose objective is to stop federal student aid “fraud rings.”
“Federal student aid exists so that individuals can make their dream of a higher education a reality,” said Natalie Forbort, Special Agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Western Regional Office. “As the law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of Education, ensuring that those who steal student aid or game the system for their own selfish purposes are stopped and held accountable for their criminal actions is a big part of our mission. I’m proud of the OIG special agents and our Federal law enforcement colleagues for stopping this fraud ring and holding these criminals accountable for their actions.”