THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
EASTERN DISTRICT of CALIFORNIA
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California
Four Convicted For Participation In Student Aid Fraud Ring
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Docket #: 1-12-cr-00031-AWI
|Friday, July 12, 2013|
FRESNO, Calif.— United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that Keith Lazell Woolridge, Sr., 41, of Fresno, California, was convicted on Thursday of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The guilty verdict was returned by a federal court jury in Fresno after a three day jury trial before United States District Judge Anthony W. Ishii. The jury verdict followed a guilty plea the morning of trial by Piersha Dwan Woolridge, 34, of Atwater, California, to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Earlier in the month, Yvette Maura August, 41, of Atwater, California and Kim Rene Grey, 39, of Los Banos, California, pled guilty to charges arising out of the same scheme. Keith Woolridge is scheduled to be sentenced October 31, 2013.
According to testimony presented at trial, Keith Woolridge participated in a conspiracy to defraud the United States Department of Education of federal student aid funds. The conspirators enrolled themselves and others as students in online courses at universities, even though they did not qualify for federal student aid and did not otherwise intend to attend college. In one case, Keith Woolridge stole the identity of a person to enroll her in college and collect student aid funds in her name, without the victim’s knowledge.
The case was the product of an investigation by the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Mark J. McKeon and Grant B. Rabenn prosecuted the case.
The maximum statutory penalty for each count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud or mail fraud is twenty years in prison. The penalty for aggravated identity theft is a mandatory two years in prison, to be consecutive to any other sentence. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors.