4 Sentenced in student aid fraud case

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Jardon Laforcarde and Ramon Meneses By Jennifer Thomas Jardon Laforcarde and Ramon Meneses By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- A Phoenix man has been sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a federal student aid fraud ring that included three others.

Federal prosecutors said Jardon Laforcarde, 28, also must serve three years of supervised release.

Laforcarde pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. Department of Education of nearly $370,000 in student aid funds.

Three other co-defendants also pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy and were recently sentenced. Ramon Meneses, 25, of Phoenix, received 54 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release; his wife, Bobbie Robertson-Meneses, 31, of Phoenix, received five years of probation with 12 months of home incarceration; and Dorothy Taylor, 50, of Phoenix, received 24 months' imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release.

"Federal student loan programs are seriously undermined every year by fraudulently-obtained student aid funds," said John S. Leonardo, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona. "The prison sentences imposed in this case reflect the seriousness of the offenses committed by these fraud rings and should serve as a warning to others who are contemplating the same type of fraudulent activity."

Prosecutors said the four conspired to enroll fictitious students in online college courses and submit fraudulent online applications for federal student aid in the names of those fictitious students.

Prosecutors said Laforcarde and Meneses, who were serving sentences in state prison at the time, obtained the personal identifying information of other inmates whose identities could then be used as the fictitious students. Robertson-Meneses and Taylor, who both have prior convictions but were not in prison at the time, used that information to complete the online enrollment forms.

The fictitious students were awarded $369,589 in federal loan funds and Pell grants, and $254,891 was disbursed before the fraud was detected and stopped. The funds went to Robertson-Meneses and Taylor, who shared them with Laforcarde and Meneses.

The four were ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. Department of Education.