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U.S. Attorney Charges More Than 20 With Student Aid Fraud

Aired 9/18/12 on KPBS News.

A state and federal investigation has yielded charges against the people considered ringleaders in the effort to get financial aid even though they weren’t attending school.

More than twenty people in California have been charged with receiving a combined $870 thousand dollars of federal student financial aid even though they weren't attending school.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District is Benjamin Wagner. He said some of the defendants used stolen identities to obtain aid through online or community colleges.

"People can make use of stolen identities," explained Wagner. "People can falsify information and provide it through the internet and there's relatively little checking of that information."

Fifteen schools from Sacramento to San Diego were targeted.

The Inspector General's office at the U.S. Department of Education said it has been urging schools to do a better job screening its students. Though several schools failed in that regard, investigators are crediting them for discovering the fraud after the fact.

In the last five years nationwide, there have been successful prosecutions of financial aid fraud totaling eight million dollars.

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