Man convicted for $1.4m student loan fraud after blowing cash at casinos

Elliott Sterling represented himself in court and said he was being punished for ‘making money’

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Monday 21 March 2022 03:37

A Louisiana man was convicted for posing as 180 students to obtain $1.4m in grants and loans before spending huge chunks of the cash at casinos.

Elliott Sterling, of Baton Rouge, used the students personal information to fill out federal financial aid applications and enroll them for classes at the city’s community college between 2017 and 2019, a court heard.

Prosecutors say that Sterling took most of the money for himself and spent more than $253,000 in casinos in Louisiana, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

Sterling, who was 32 when he was charged in 2020, represented himself in court and claimed he was innocent and was being punished for “making money”, according to The Advocate newspaper.

A jury in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana convicted Sterling on 15 counts of wire fraud, financial aid fraud and money laundering on Wednesday.

They also ordered that $422,600 of the money that was seized by the FBI be forfeited.

Baton Rouge Community College said in a statement that it hoped that Sterling’s conviction would deter others “seeking to deceive and misuse the federal student loan process.”

Kizzy Payton, a spokesperson for the college, said that the alarm had been raised when the FBI received an alert from BankMobile, which processes financial aid.

“We then partnered with the FBI and maintained our strong internal controls to help minimise the impact of the fraudulent activity and provided all the requested documents to support the investigation,” she said.

The court was told that Sterling accompanied many of the students to the college’s campus to help them complete the financial aid process.

The jury was told he also offered to pay individuals to go to the financial aid office and impersonate students.

He is due to be sentenced on 7 July.

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