Financial Aid At California Colleges Hit By Scams, Officials Say

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Scam artists posing as students or stealing identities from other people illegally obtained more than $770,000 in financial aid and loans via California community colleges and online schools, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Seventeen people have been indicted since August in six cases that involve 15 California campuses, including Santa Barbara City College, Bakersfield College, Antelope Valley College and San Diego City College, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Sacramento. In some instances, plotters used identities of severely handicapped people and prisoners to apply for aid and some recruited "straw" students with no intention of attending school who kicked back money, the indictments said.

"At this time of year, as college students begin classes at schools throughout the state, it is important to send the message that fraud against student assistance programs will not be tolerated," said Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, in a statement. "Those who rip off federal aid funds can expect to find themselves in a prison cell instead of a classroom."

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General also is working on the cases.

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