Friday, July 17, 2009

Nine fugitives sought in financial aid fraud scheme

Federal authorities are seeking nine fugitives for their alleged part of a scheme to defraud the U.S. Government out of more than a half-million dollars in student loans.

The nine people are James Barnes, Everett Black, Robert Harris, Angela Garcia, Kim Martin, Anthony Thomas, Dawn Standing Elk, Elayna Standing Elk and Fabien Zarate.

The scam allegedly was organized by Trenda Lynne Halton, of Peoria, who officials say solicited applications for student loans to attend Rio Salado College from people who had no intention of attending the school. Halton was arrested and released pending trial.

To date, 54 of the 65 defendants charged in the 130-count indictment have appeared in federal court. The final two defendants are expected to appear in court in the near future. Charges vary for each individual and include conspiracy, mail fraud, financial aid fraud and/or false statements in connection with financial aid.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Department of Education are asking the public’s assistance regarding the whereabouts of nine fugitives in this case. Anyone with information regarding the location of any of these fugitives is asked to contact Postal Inspector Greg Torbenson at 602-223-3256, Special Agent Adam Shanedling at 562-980-4136, or call the U.S. Postal Inspection Service toll free at 1-877-876-2455 (then select option 2.)