Senior citizen sentenced in student scam

(Cuyahoga County) - A Euclid woman was sentenced to more than three years in prison for a college student aid scam in which she fraudulently obtained more than $205,000.

Elizabeth Westmoreland, 69, was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison. She previously pleaded guilty to multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

“This money was supposed to be used to help legitimate students pay for tuition and cover the cost of books and supplies,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said. “This defendant got hundreds of thousands of dollars because she is a scammer. This prison sentence is deserved.”

Westmoreland, from 2013 through 2017, recruited “students” whose identities she could use to fraudulently enroll them at several community colleges, including Lakeland Community College, Owens Community College, University of Rio Grande and Edison State Community College. At least one “student” was incarcerated while he purported to attend Lakeland, according to court documents.

Westmoreland applied for financial aid using the fraudulent students. This aid covered the cost of tuition and other fees, which were sent directly to the schools, but also additional expenses, such as money for books, supplies, transportation and other fees. This money was sent from the U.S. Department of Education directly to the students, according to court documents.

As part of the conspiracy, Westmoreland and the fraudulent students split the proceeds of the student aid money. Westmoreland arranged for and/or personally completed the coursework online so the students continued to receive aid, according to court documents.

The checks were mailed to addresses controlled by Westmoreland, then she and other would transport the recruited fraudulent students to various locations to cash the checks and split the proceeds, according to court documents.

The U.S. Department of Education was defrauded approximately $178,476 and the Social Security Administration was defrauded approximately $27,267 as part of the conspiracy, according to court documents.

Cleveland Federal Court House

(Photos by Ken Robinson/WTAM)

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