Prosecutors said Thursday a Baton Rouge man filed bogus paperwork to defraud the federal student loan system and, when challenged by officials at the Baton Rouge Community College about questionable loans, arranged for himself and others to impersonate students to conceal the crime.
Elliott Sterling, 32, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges listed in a 14-count indictment, the U.S. Attorney's office said.
According to the indictment, between September 2017 and November 2019, Sterling enrolled individuals into classes at BRCC and fraudulently obtained financial aid in their names.
He's accused of misrepresenting academic records, income and the number of dependents on loan applications, and prosecutors said that of the 250 people he secured money for, only 32 had a high school diploma or its equivalent. Some of the financial aid was in the names of people in prison.
"When asked for documentation by BRCC, Sterling assisted the students with providing false information, including fake diplomas and/or transcripts. On occasion, Sterling would present himself as a student and paid others to impersonate students at BRCC," prosecutors said.
The U.S. Attorney's office said the money was often sent to Sterling's personal account or that of his business, Sterling Educational Consulting, and that he would give some of the money to the students and, without their knowledge, keep a large portion for himself. Prosecutors said he didn't tell students that the money had to be repaid.
Sterling is also charged with one count of money laundering relating to a $256,000 withdrawal of fraud proceeds from his personal bank account for conversion into a bank check.