A woman from LaPlace, Louisiana, could end up in prison for 15 years for stealing over $280,000 from the Federal Student Aid (FSA) program through fraudulent means.

Ashly Howard, 33, was charged on 24 November 2020 with theft of government funds and identity theft. Howard is alleged to have submitted forms using the identity of other individuals in a bid to obtain federal aid for her own gains.

Established by the US government under the Higher Education Act of 1965, the FSA provides financial assistance to qualified students to acquire a post-secondary education. Eligible students complete a Master Promissory Note (MPN) and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form in order to be able to receive educational loans.

Jail
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According to the complaint, beginning 2018 and through 2019, Howard was alleged to have illegally submitted MPNs and/or FAFSAs in the name of other individuals in order to obtain these funds. The 33-year-old enabled the submission of 30 applications to the Nunez Community College in Chalmette, Louisiana, in the names of these individuals. She also facilitated the creation of debit cards under those names for the disbursement of loan amounts to their corresponding accounts.

Accessing Ill-gotten Funds

After accepting the student loan grants, Howard used the criminally acquired money under the names of these individuals. While some of the finds were accessed with the consent and knowledge of certain individuals, the rest were accessed without it.

In total, Howard illegally acquired approximately $280,000 from the Department of Education as funds that were not rightfully hers to receive. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, which would be followed by supervised release of up to three years. Howards may also be fined up to $250,000.00, along with a compulsory $100 special assessment.