Newnan resident Andrea R. Williams has been sentenced to six years and seven months in federal prison for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft for using stolen identities to file dozens of fraudulent federal student aid applications.
“Williams stole the identities of dozens of innocent victims, using them to file fraudulent student aid applications,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “Identity theft is a growing problem, one that turns up in every segment of our society. We encourage all citizens to be diligent in checking their credit reports, and monitoring their e-mail and social media for suspicious activity. If something does not seem legitimate, most likely it is not.”
From in or about January 2013 until in or about November 2015, 36-year-old Williams filed dozens of fraudulent financial student aid applications (FSA), mostly with community colleges in Dallas County, Tex., Horn said.
The Dallas County Community College network identified similarities in a series of applications and sought assistance from the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The similarities identified included a common IP address associated with over half of the suspicious applications. Additionally, three of the fraudulent applications listed dependents who were identified as Williams’ minor children. Finally, in one application, Williams signed her own name on paperwork she submitted, instead of the name of the stolen identity she used to file the FSA, said Horn.
Horn said that, in total, Williams received more than $200,000 in financial aid out of the over $500,000 that she was awarded. When confronted by law enforcement, Williams admitted to this conduct and explained that she stole the identities from the patient database of a healthcare company where she briefly worked. She also admitted to using stolen identities to obtain numerous credit cards which she used to purchase electronics, clothing, and furniture. Finally, she admitted that she forged a doctor’s signature on a medical disability statement in order to get approximately $47,000 of her personal education debt discharged.
“Federal student aid exists so that individuals can make their dream of a higher education a reality. Ensuring that those who steal student aid – through identity theft or other means – are stopped and held accountable for their criminal actions is a big part of our mission,” said Yessyka Santana, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Southeastern Regional Office. “I’m proud of the work of the Office of Inspector General and our law enforcement partners for their work in this case and we will continue to work together to stop those who steal Federal education funds. America’s students and taxpayers deserve nothing less.”
Williams was sentenced to six years, seven months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, to pay a $200 special assessment and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $277,434.50. Williams has been convicted on these charges on October 6, 2016, after she pleaded guilty.