COLLETON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Thirteen people pleaded guilty in federal in court in Charleston to a student aid fraud conspiracy involving nearly $700,000.
U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles announced on Wednesday that the defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and student financial aid fraud.
According to authorities, the conspirators recruited individuals who were told that they could get thousands of dollars in student financial aid without having to take online courses.
The conspirators recruited family, friends and co-workers as "straw students." The conspirators used the "straw students'" personal information to file false online college admissions applications and federal student aid financial applications.
Government officials say the conspirators caused at least $689,000 of student loans and grants to be disbursed in the names of the ineligible individuals.
Nettles said the maximum penalty each defendant can receive is a fine of $250,000 and/or imprisonment for 5 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
Those who pleaded guilty were:
Deena Holmes of Walterboro
Sierria Thomas of Green Pond
Mayella Saxon of Fairfax
Helen Ross of Williston
Kourtney Fishburne of Orlando, Fla.
Shanean Glaze of Walterboro
Marvin Spell of Yemassee
Tameko Fishburne of Walterboro
Marquita Fishburne of Walterboro
Cleo Fryar, a/k/a Cleo Cooper,of Walterboro
Lena Gant of Walterboro
Latanya Cochran of Orangeburg
Shannon Fishburne of Walterboro
According to authorities, Tameko Fishburne was an employee at the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Allendale Correctional Institution, when she recruited four of her co-workers to participate in the conspiracy.