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OIG: Office of Inspector General
   Current Section

Investigation Report

THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
DISTRICT of ARIZONA

Office of the United States Attorney, Ann Birmingham Scheel
District of Arizona

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 04, 2012

Public Affairs
Bill Solomon
Telephone: 602.514.7547
Cell: 602.920.1424
william.solomon@usdoj.gov
www.justice.gov/usao/az

Four Indicted in Federal Student Financial Aid Scheme

PHOENIX – On May 2, 2012, federal authorities arrested three women accused of participating in federal student financial aid fraud involving inmates of Perryville Prison. Arrested were Elizabeth Meza, 32, Sandra Lopez, 25, and Denise Wheeler, 43, all residents of Glendale, Ariz. Analisa Delgado, 33, who is currently serving a prison sentence in Perryville Prison, is also alleged to be part of the fraud.

The four women were indicted by a federal grand jury on April 25, 2012, on charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, theft of public funds, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges that the four used a variety of identities to register for on-line classes at Rio Salado College and to apply for federal student financial aid in the form of loans and grants. The federal government approved more than $150,000 in funds based on fraudulent applications, with approximately $71,000 having been disbursed. An investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Education revealed that dozens more fraudulent applications were in the works.

A conviction for wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a $1,000,000 fine, or both. A conviction for theft of government funds carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both. A conviction for aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory, consecutive, 2-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine, or both. In determining an actual sentence, U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake will consult, but is not bound by, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges.

An indictment is simply a method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation preceding the indictment was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General. The prosecution is being handled by Monica Klapper, Assistant U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, Phoenix.

CASE NUMBER: CR-12-0859-PHX-NVW
RELEASE NUMBER: 2012-111(Delgado_etal)

Indictment (PDF)

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Last Modified: 05/08/2012