LaPlace woman pleads guilty to running $195K student loan fraud

Published 12:22 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

NEW ORLEANS — A LaPlace woman orchestrated financial aid disbursement to Delgado Community College for 15 unsuspecting individuals totaling $276,000, authorities said, illegally enriching herself in the process to the tune of $195,435.

According to federal prosecutors, none of the individuals who received the student loans were aware of the financial transfers, because 31-year-old Kendra Graves was operating a complex and expansive identity theft operation, pocketing the money throughout the process.

Those college loans came due this week when Graves pleaded guilty to a two-count bill of information charging her with theft of government funds.

U.S. Attorney Peter G. Strasser said Graves faces up to 25 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine and lengthy post-sentence probation.

U.S. District Court Judge Lance M. Africk set sentencing for June 26.

Court documents released to the media following Wednesday’s plea indicate Graves submitted falsified electronic FAFSA forms and accepted grants and student loans that were awarded to 15 people, executed promissory notes and opened a Bank Mobile account with a debit card in each individual’s name so the student loan proceeds could be disbursed.

After access to the Bank Mobile accounts were terminated by Bank Mobile, student loan refunds from Delgado Community College in New Orleans were deposited into nominee bank accounts designated by Graves and belonging to her family members.

Authorities said Graves admitted she was solely responsible for the financial aid fraud scheme, noting she had control of the bank accounts and debit cards used to perpetrate the fraudulent financial transactions.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julia K. Evans led the prosecution, and Strasser, in a release announcing the plea, praised the work of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Treasury, IRS and FBI.