| U.S. Department of Justice
WILLIAM W. MERCER
United States Attorney
District of Montana
Kurt Alme, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the
Edwina Pearl Alden Sentenced in U.S. District Court
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings, on August 9, 2006, before Senior U.S. District Judge Jack D. Shanstrom, EDWINA PEARL ALDEN, a 43-year-old resident of Crow Agency, appeared for sentencing. ALDEN was sentenced to a term of:.
- House Arrest: 10 months
- Special Assessment: $200
- Restitution: $19,838
- Supervised Release: 3 years
ALDEN was sentenced in connection with her guilty plea to wire fraud and federal education assistance fraud.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On February 11, 2005, agents received a complaint from the Financial Aid Office of Salish Kootenai College in Pablo which suspected that on an application for financial assistance, ALDEN had falsified multiple Free Applications for Federal Student Aid by stating she received her General Educational Development (GED) certificate when she had not. Additionally, it was suspected that ALDEN had submitted a falsified GED certificate from the State of Washington in support of her application for financial aid on September 26, 2001.
Investigators reviewed information from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) records and determined that between 1995 and 2005 ALDEN had received Pell Grants, FFSEO Grants, and Stafford Loan funds administered by the U.S. Department of Education, various Indian Health Service grants, administered by the Salish Kootenai College and provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, and had received and attempted to receive grants and scholarships administered by the Crow Tribe with money provided by the U.S. Department of Interior.
College documents received from the Salish Kootenai College and Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency revealed ALDEN had filed her Free Applications for Federal Student Aid representing, as required for federal student aid, that she was in possession of either a high school diploma or GED, making her eligible for student aid. Financial Aid award letters received from the Salish Kootenai College indicated ALDEN also received financial assistance from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, and had received or attempted to receive tribal funds provided by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
A GED certificate dated January 29, 1989, was submitted by ALDEN to Salish Kootenai College as proof of her educational eligibility and to support her application for federal resources. The certificate indicated that ALDEN had taken the exam at Heritage College in Toppenish, Washington. The Director of Information Services for Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges indicated there was no record on file that ALDEN ever earned a GED in the state of Washington. A copy of the GED submitted by ALDEN was reviewed by the director. He indicated the name font did not match the rest of the certificate, the font for the year of issue was not consistent with the month and day font, and Heritage College had ceased issuance of GED certificates two years prior to the issue date on the certificate submitted by ALDEN.
ALDEN transferred to Salish Kootenai College during the 2001 fall semester and continued her attendance until the fall semester of 2004. ALDEN withdrew from her classes on November 17, 2004, citing personal reasons as her motive for withdrawing.
During her enrollment at Salish Kootenai College, ALDEN applied for and received funds from several different programs. Salish Kootenai College utilized a Student Data Form to evaluate and determine if a student met all the necessary requirements to receive financial aid from these various programs. ALDEN completed four of these forms during the time she attended Salish Kootenai College. ALDEN represented to the Salish Kootenai College officials on each of these forms that she had obtained a GED certificate
These forms contain a perjury statement. ALDEN signed and dated each of these forms. ALDEN also signed a school year 2001-2002 Indian Health Service Nursing Scholarship Contract.
On June 30, 2005, ALDEN was interviewed by federal agents of the Offices of Inspectors General for Education and Interior. ALDEN admitted to not having earned a GED and to submitting falsified information in an attempt to receive financial assistance to attend school. ALDEN also admitted to knowing that the GED certificate she had presented to several federal agencies was fraudulent.
Records from Salish Kootenai College and Little Big Horn College indicate that ALDEN received $16,412 in payments paid directly to her from the grant funds provided by the Department of Education funds and applied by Salish Kootenai College and Little Big Horn College to educational expenses on her behalf.
Records from Salish Kootenai College indicate that ALDEN received $19,838.05 in payments paid directly to her from the grant funds provided to Salish Kootenai College by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An additional $6,450.95 was applied by Salish Kootenai College for educational expenses on her behalf. Total amount expended was $26,289.00.
Records from the Crow Tribe indicate that ALDEN received $2,450 in payments paid directly to her from the grant funds provided by the U.S. Department of Interior during her enrollment at Salish Kootenai College.
Total assistance provided to ALDEN based upon the fraudulent GED totaled approximately $42,701.
Because there is no parole in the federal system, the “truth in sentencing” guidelines mandate that ALDEN will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, ALDEN does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for “good behavior.” However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl E. Rostad prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Inspector General’s Office of the United States Department of the Interior and the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Education.