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Four Scammers Who Set up Fake Theology School Plead Guilty to Taking Millions from Federal Financial Aid Program

A team of scammers who created a sham theology school to defraud the U.S. Department of Education’s financial aid programs of millions of dollars has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud.

Apex School of Theology in Durham / LinkedIn. The four scammers set up a bogus satellite campus in Columbus, Georgia, and enrolled individuals who posed as students.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Sandra Anderson, 63, of Palmetto, Georgia; Yolanda Thomas, 51, of Columbus, Georgia; Leo Thomas, 56, of Phenix City, Alabama; and Kristina Parker, 35, of Stone Mountain, Georgia, have pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining federal financial aid funds and using them for personal expenses. 

Prosecutors said that under Anderson’s direction, they set up a bogus satellite campus of the Apex School of Theology and enrolled individuals who agreed to pose as students. 

They then completed fake financial aid applications in the students’ names, and proceeded to do students’ homework, take tests for them and pose as teachers so they could manipulate grades and ensure students continued to meet the minimum qualifying requirements for federal financial aid. 

When students’ financial aid refund checks arrived, they either stole them or required the students to cash their checks and provide a portion to the co-conspirators, officials said.

Anderson, Yolanda Thomas, and Parker each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and four counts of financial aid fraud, and each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on each of the conspiracy and wire fraud charges and five years in prison on each of the financial aid fraud charges. 

Leo Thomas pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. 

Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 15. 

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.