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OIG: Office of Inspector General
   Current Section

Investigative Report

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE
WESTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 8, 2006
United States Attorney
John L. Brownlee

BB&T Building
310 1st Street, S.W., Room 906
Roanoke, Virginia 24011
Contact:
Heidi Coy
Public Affairs Specialist
Tel: (540) 857-2250
Fax: 540) 857-2180

Pulaski County Inmate Charged with Submitting False Claims for Financial Aid While in Prison

United States Attorney John L. Brownlee announced today that Jason P. Justus, age 32, an inmate in Pulaski County, Virginia, was indicted by a federal Grand Jury sitting in Roanoke, Virginia.

Justus was charged in a two count indictment with conspiracy to submit false claims and making false statements.

According to the indictment, Justus was incarcerated in the Pulaski Correctional Unit. Beginning in July 2003, Jason Justus, along with his mother, Karen Justus, and his sister, Joy Justus, developed a scheme to defraud the Department of Education and the Internal Revenue Service by filing false income tax returns and applications for education assistance. The conspirators used the names of real people who were not owed tax refunds nor qualified to receive student aid, some of whom were incarcerated in the Pulaski Correctional Unit. Justus, his mother and sister, submitted the false tax returns and applications for student aid electronically.

"Financial aid is made available to college students so that any hardworking person has the opportunity to get an education. Mr. Justus took advantage of this service and took money away from others who are honestly and diligently trying to better themselves through education," said United States Attorney John Brownlee.

According to the indictment, between January 2003 and June 2005, Jason Justus submitted and caused to be submitted false Federal Tax Returns that resulted in the issuance of 30 tax refund checks totaling over $68,000.

Between July 2003 and April 2005, Justus submitted and caused to be submitted applications for financial assistance for the attendance at Ivy Tech State College and Owens State Community College. Those fraudulent applications resulted in the payment of $110,227.00 from the Department of Education to people who were not enrolled in programs at these colleges.

The Grand Jury has charged that on July 29, 2003, an electronic FAFSA was submitted to the Department of Education to fund the attendance of Jason P. Justus at Ivy Tech for the 2003-2004 school year. The FAFSA was submitted while Justus was incarcerated at Pulaski Correctional Unit, which does not provide inmates with internet access or educational furloughs. Because of the information Justus submitted, Justus was awarded a Pell Grant in the amount of $3,900 and federal student loans in the amount of $6,625.00.

On October 16, 2004, Karen Justus informed her brother, Jason Justus, who was incarcerated at the time, that he "...was doing pretty good in school."

On November 21, 2004, Karen Justus called Jason P. Justus at Pulaski Correctional Facility and said "I think I forgot to take a test for you."

On September 18, 2001, Jason Justus made false statements to representatives of the Department of Education, saying he had no knowledge of the filing of false federal income tax returns using the inmate information he provided to Karen Justus and Joy Justus.

If convicted on all counts, the maximum penalty faced by the defendant is 15 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $500,000.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Education. Assistant United States Attorney C. Patrick Hogeboom will prosecute the case.

A Grand Jury indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial with the burden on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


 
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Last Modified: 09/11/2006