By Andy Owens
Published May 31, 2012
Thirteen co-conspirators, including former Corrections Department employees, pled guilty in federal court this month for filing fake online college admissions applications to cash in on federal student financial aid.
Most of the co-conspirators were from the Lowcountry. By using information from “straw students,” who had no intention of attending college, the ring would apply for and receive student loans and grants, said U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles.
Balance refund checks, the difference between the cost of tuition and the provided aid, would be issued to the “straw students.” Nettles said the conspirators were paid from “fees” taken from those checks. He said at least $680,000 in student loans and grants were issued in the names of ineligible students.
The “straw students” were told that they could get thousands of dollars in student financial aid without having to take online college courses by allowing their personal information to be used on applications, Nettles said. The “straw students” included family, friends and co-workers of the conspirators.
Tameko Fishburne was an employee of the S.C. Department of Corrections at the time of the criminal activity, Nettles said. She recruited four of her Allendale Correctional Institution co-workers to participate in the conspiracy, including Helen Ross and Mayella Saxon, he said.
The 13 co-defendants pled guilty in federal court in Charleston to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and student financial aid fraud. U.S. District Judge David C. Norton took the pleas and will impose a sentence at a later date, Nettles said.
The defendants, who could receive the maximum penalty of a $250,000 fine, and/or imprisonment for five years, plus a special assessment of $100, include the following individuals:
Deena Holmes, 39, of Walterboro.
Sierria Thomas, 24, of Green Pond.
Mayella Saxon, 52, of Fairfax.
Helen Ross, 41, of Williston.
Kourtney Fishburne, 27, of Orlando, Fla.
Shanean Glaze, 32, of Walterboro.
Marvin Spell, 49, of Yemassee.
Tameko Fishburne, 29, of Walterboro.
Marquita Fishburne, 28, of Walterboro.
Cleo Fryar, also known as “Cleo Cooper,” 39, of Walterboro.
Lena Gant, 48, of Walterboro.
Latanya Cochran, 41, of Orangeburg.
Shannon Fishburne, 32, of Walterboro.
Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.