Three members of the same family were arrested this week on charges alleging they ran a fraud scheme that used the identities of prison inmates to fraudulently enroll in an Orange County-based community college and obtain nearly $1 million in federal student loans, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
The six-count indictment charges Nyisha Ramsey, 43, of Lancaster, her sister and mother-in-law with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution and bank fraud, according to the DOJ.
The sister, Dionne Ramsey, 36, of Las Vegas, faces four additional counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution. She and Sharyn Barney, 62, of Lancaster, also have been charged with one count of bank fraud.
According to the indictment, from January 2012 to August 2017, the defendants allegedly obtained personally identifying information, including names and Social Security numbers, of state prison inmates and other victims, and used the information to fraudulently enroll in community colleges.
The defendants allegedly then posed as the straw students to apply for federal student aid and directed those funds to bank accounts they controlled. Those funds, according to the indictment, were used for personal expenses and were not used for permitted educational costs at a community college in Orange County as they were supposed to be.
As a result of their alleged scheme, the defendants fraudulently caused the U.S. Treasury to disburse about $980,000 on behalf of the bogus students.
All three defendants were arrested this week and were ordered released on bond. Nyisha Ramsey and Barney were arraigned and have pleaded not guilty in Los Angeles federal court to the charges against them. An April 25 trial date has been scheduled for them. Dionne Ramsey is expected to be arraigned in Los Angeles in the coming weeks.