November 30, 2020

Six people charged with defrauding $12 million with fake theology school

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.

The defendants, who also were accused of creating fake students, were accused of being part of a scheme to operate a Columbus campus of Apex School of Theology. Apex was headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, with satellites offering instruction in subjects including theology, news outlets reported.

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, WALB-TV reported.

The group allegedly recruited people to acts as students to apply for federal financial aid. The supposed students did no work and attended no classes, but split their financial aid with the defendants.

The scheme also involved creating work for fake students to make it appear actual students receiving aid were making progress, prosecutors said.