Six Defendants Charged in Scheme to Defraud Student Loan Programs of More Than $12 Million.

Six former administrators from the Columbus, Georgia, campus of the Apex School of Theology were charged in an indictment unsealed Monday for their alleged participation in a scheme to defraud student loan programs of more than $12,000,000.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Charles Peeler of the Middle District of Georgia, Special Agent in Charge J.C. Hacker of the FBI’s Atlanta Division, Special Agent in Charge Neil Sanchez of the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (DOE-OIG), and Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey, of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Atlanta Division made the announcement.

According to the indictment, Erica Montgomery, 47, of Ft. Mitchell, Alabama, Sandra Anderson, 61, of Columbus, Georgia, Leo Frank Thomas, 54, of Columbus, Georgia, Yolanda Thomas, 50, of Columbus, Georgia, Dorothy Webb, 68, of Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kristina Parker, 33, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, were charged by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Georgia with one count of conspiracy, five counts of mail fraud, and five counts of financial aid fraud.  Anderson and Montgomery were also charged with money laundering. 

The indictment alleges that the defendants engaged in a scheme to operate an off-site learning center in Columbus, Georgia, on behalf of Apex, a now-defunct school offering programs in theology and other subjects.  As part of the scheme, the defendants allegedly recruited individuals with offers of “free money” to act as fake “students” and fraudulently apply for federal financial aid.  The indictment alleges that these “students” were told that they did not have to do any work or attend classes, but they would have to split their financial aid with the defendants, who used federal financial aid funds to personally enrich themselves.

The indictment further alleges that the defendants submitted plagiarized work for the “students,” took their tests, and logged on to the school’s web site as if they were the “students” to deceive the DOE into believing they were real students making adequate academic progress.  The defendants falsified admission packets and applied for federal financial aid in the names of the students, falsely certifying that they were the student and that the financial aid would be used for educational purposes.  Instead, the financial aid was used to enrich the recruited “students” and the defendants.  The indictment alleges that the defendants defrauded the DOE of at least $12,000,000 in taxpayer funds.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The FBI’s Atlanta Division, DOE-OIG, and IRS-CI’s Atlanta Division investigated this matter.  Senior Litigation Counsel David A. Bybee of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford Seals of the Middle District of Georgia are prosecuting the case. 

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

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    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—within the Department of Energy (DOE)—and its contractors may have limited information on the prevalence of sexual harassment within the nuclear security forces. NNSA's nuclear security forces include federal agents in NNSA's Office of Secure Transportation (OST), which is responsible for transporting nuclear materials, and contracted guard forces at four of its sites. Federal officials at NNSA and contractor representatives at four NNSA sites that process weapons-usable nuclear material reported very few cases of sexual harassment from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. Research shows that the least common response to harassment is to report it or file a complaint. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—which enforces federal laws prohibiting harassment—suggests organizations survey employees to assess the extent to which harassment is a problem in their organization. NNSA does not survey employees on this topic, nor does NNSA call for such surveys in its contracts for security forces. Because NNSA relies solely on reported incidents, it may not have full knowledge into the nature or extent of sexual harassment in OST or by its contractors at its sites. Surveying employees would better position them to identify actions to effectively prevent and respond to harassment. To varying degrees, NNSA and its contractors follow EEOC's recommended practices to prevent and respond to sexual harassment in their nuclear security forces. For example, with respect to recommended training practices, NNSA and its contractors provide antiharassment training to all employees, but only one force offers workplace-specific training that addresses sexual harassment risk factors relevant to the security forces. Because NNSA has not formally reviewed EEOC's practices and considered which to adopt for its nuclear security forces, or made similar considerations for its security force contractors, the agency may be missing opportunities to prevent and respond to sexual harassment. Selected EEOC Practices for Effective Training to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Harassment and Number of NNSA's Nuclear Security Forces That Reflect Those Practices in Training EEOC Promising Practice Number of forces that reflect the practice Provided to employees at every level and location of the organization 5 of 5 Tailored to the specific workplace and workforce 1 of 5 Explains the complaint process, as well as any voluntary alternative dispute resolution processes 2 of 5 Explains the range of possible consequences for engaging in prohibited conduct 1 of 5 Source: GAO comparison of National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and protective force contractor information with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) November 2017 Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment . | GAO-21-307 EEOC has found that NNSA and DOE do not meet all EEOC requirements relevant to preventing and responding to sexual harassment. For example, NNSA does not have an antiharassment program or a compliant antiharassment policy. According to EEOC officials, NNSA and DOE efforts to date have improved some aspects of their EEO programs, but because the agencies have not fully implemented their plans to address deficiencies identified by EEOC, DOE and NNSA may be missing opportunities to establish and maintain effective programs that include protection from and response to sexual harassment. Why GAO Did This Study Federal law prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Besides being harmful to those harassed, sexual harassment can decrease organizational performance and increase turnover. In January 2019, public allegations of sexual harassment in NNSA's nuclear security forces drew attention to this issue. House Report 116-120 provided that GAO review sexual harassment in NNSA's nuclear security force. This report examines (1) what NNSA and its contractors know about the prevalence of sexual harassment in their nuclear security forces, (2) the extent to which NNSA and its contractors implement EEOC recommendations to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, and (3) the extent to which EEOC found that NNSA and DOE meet its requirements relevant to sexual harassment. GAO reviewed information on sexual harassment and programs to address such harassment at DOE and NNSA from fiscal years 2015 through 2020. GAO analyzed documents and data, conducted a literature review, interviewed NNSA officials, and compared NNSA and contractor actions with EEOC-recommended practices for preventing harassment.
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  • Two Men Charged in Ecuadorian Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    Criminal complaints have been unsealed charging two Ecuadorian citizens for their alleged roles in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving Ecuador’s public police pension fund (ISSPOL).
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  • Breaking Barriers: The NHL’s Willie O’Ree, Documentary Film & Global Discussion on Racial Equality
    In Crime Control and Security News
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