COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Six people from three states are charged with defrauding $12 million from federal student aid programs by allegedly enrolling students into a theology school without requiring any classwork.
An indictment alleges that from 2010 to 2018, the defendants recruited fake students to the Columbus, Georgia, campus of Apex School of Theology. The students were promised they would not have to do any work but had to split “free money” from federal grants and loans with the employees, prosecutors said.
Apex was headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, with satellites offering instruction in subjects including theology, news outlets reported.
The U.S. Department of Education stopped providing financial aid to the school’s students last year as it investigated Apex. The school sued, but has since shut down.
Prosecutors said grand jurors returned fraud indictments against Sandra Anderson, 61; Leo Frank Thomas, 54; and Yolanda Thomas, 50, all of Columbus; Kristina Parker, 33, of Stone Mountain; Erica Montgomery, 47, of Fort Mitchell, Alabama; and Dorothy Webb, 68, of Las Vegas.
Anderson and Montgomery also were charged with money laundering, investigators said.
Federal court records, which were unsealed Monday, did not include the names of any lawyers who could speak on behalf of the defendants.
William Dillion, the attorney for Columbus campus director Anderson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, WTVM-TV reported.
The defendants are accused of falsifying applications, grades, course work and even the students’ spiritual autobiographies meant to reflect a student’s spiritual journey. Prosecutors said employees took tests and logged on to the school’s course management system to make it appear to the Department of Education that they were actual students.