FRESNO Four people, including three from Merced County, have been convicted in a conspiracy to steal student aid money from the United States government.
According to a news release from United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, a federal court jury convicted Keith Lazell Woolridge Sr., 41, of Fresno, last week of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The morning of the trial, Piersha Dwan Woolridge, 34, of Atwater pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.
That plea followed earlier guilty pleas by Yvette Maura August, 41, of Atwater, and Kim Rene Grey, 39, of Los Banos to charges arising out of the same scheme.
According to testimony presented at Woolridge's trial, the conspirators enrolled themselves and others as students in online courses at universities, even though they did not qualify for federal student aid and did not otherwise intend to attend college.
In one case, Woolridge stole the identity of a person to enroll her in college and collect student aid funds in her name, without the victim's knowledge.
Each defendant could face up to 20 years in prison on the mail fraud charges; the penalty for aggravated identity theft is a mandatory two years in prison, to be consecutive to any other sentence.