ATLANTA, GEORGIA — Maario Coleman and Angela Russell have been sentenced for stealing the identities of Emory University and University of Georgia students in order to apply for student loans.
“Just as these law and medical students were graduating to embark on their careers, they found themselves victims of identity theft,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “We encourage citizens to diligently review their credit reports and bank accounts to spot fraudulent activity as soon as possible.”
J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, stated: “This elaborate and aggressive scheme to defraud targeted not only those students at Emory University and the University of Georgia, but also Discover Bank and serves as an example of the harm that can be caused by several well placed individuals using their access and others’ personal information in this manner. FBI Atlanta is proud of the role that its capable cyber trained investigators played in working with Emory University’s police department to interrupt this criminal scheme and to bring these individuals to justice.”
According to U.S. Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Coleman obtained the names of over 100 members of the 2013 class of graduating law and medical students at Emory University and five law students at the University of Georgia. After obtaining partial Social Security numbers and dates of birth for the students, he asked Russell to supply the remaining personal identifiers. At the time, Russell had access to credit reporting databases through her employment. Together, the defendants compiled students’ birthdates and Social Security numbers. Using that information, Coleman then applied for over $400,000 worth of post-graduate bar exam study loans and medical residency loans through Discover Bank.
In many cases, Discover required student transcripts before it would approve and fund the loans. To facilitate approval of the loans, Coleman used the students’ personal identifiers to obtain passwords to Emory’s online portal, where he ordered transcripts and had them mailed to his associates. The transcripts were then sent to Coleman, who forwarded them on to Discover. Coleman also arranged for the loan proceeds to be deposited into bank accounts fraudulently opened in the victims’ names. After the loans were funded, other associates of Coleman withdrew the funds via ATM. The defendants obtained $52,000 worth of loans before the scheme was uncovered.
Maario Coleman, 28, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to computer fraud and aggravated identity theft on May 13, 2014. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr., to four years, nine months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $52,000. Angela Russell, 43, of Atlanta, was also sentenced by Judge Thrash to two years in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $26,000. She pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft on May 13, 2014.