FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
| U.S. Department of Education |
Office of the Inspector General
Washington, D.C. 20202
Contact: Catherine Grant
U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Launches New DVD: 'Identity Theft: It's not Worth It'
EDITOR'S NOTE: For a free copy of the DVD, please contact the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, at (202) 245-7023.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG) today announced the release of its second DVD on the issue of identity theft in the student financial assistance arena.
Entitled "Identity Theft: It's Not Worth It," the DVD tracks how OIG, together with the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Truckee Meadows Community College stopped a $1 million financial aid fraud scam, spearheaded by 64-year old grandmother, Ann Armstrong.
Along with four of her children and three of her grandchildren, Armstrong was convicted of using the identities of more than 65 people to fraudulently obtain federal student aid at various colleges in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, and Texas.
From January 2000 to March 2004, the Armstrongs obtained personal identifying information for various people and used it to enroll in distance education/on-line classes at colleges in those states. They applied for federal student loans and grants through the schools using these identities, submitting all information via e-mail or fax.
Checks for the loans or grants were sent in the students+ name to addresses provided on the applications which the Armstrongs then picked up, cashed, or deposited into bank accounts using false identification.
The fraudulent scheme was initially reported to the OIG by a financial aid officer at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nev. The financial aid officer observed that a number of students were applying for financial aid using the same addresses and telephone numbers. OIG initiated an investigation, ultimately leading to the filing of a criminal complaint and issuance of arrest warrants against the conspirators
In 2006, Ann Armstrong was sentenced to 57 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $662,000 in restitution. In the DVD, Armstrong discusses how she regrets her actions, and states that overall, "it's not worth it." Family members participating in the scheme also received prison sentences for their parts in the fraud.
"OIG is committed to fighting identity theft in student financial assistance programs by aggressively pursuing those who have committed fraud to obtain student financial aid," said John P. Higgins Jr., inspector general of the U.S. Department of Education. "We also work to educate potential victims and our partners in the financial arena on how to prevent it."
Since 2003, the OIG, together with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Federal Student Aid, has conducted a public awareness campaign to alert students, schools, and other financial aid participants about identity theft via the OIG's special Web site, www.ed.gov/misused.
The site provides information on scams, suggestions for preventing identity theft, and resources on how to report identity theft involving federal education dollars.
In 2003 with the assistance of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, OIG produced its first DVD on this issue, entitled, "FSA Identity Theft: We Need Your Help." This report featured an individual incarcerated for student aid fraud who described the techniques he used to steal identities.
These DVDs are made available to schools and student groups, and the media upon request. For more information on the mission and activities of the Office of Inspector General, visit: www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/.