Pell Grant Theft Ring at TTU Busted - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

1/8/06

Pell Grant Theft Ring at TTU Busted

Ten former Texas Tech University students are charged in connection with a Pell Grant theft ring. Officials say students allegedly defrauded the U.S. Department of Education out of about $123,000. The case involves police, the FBI, and the Department of Education, just to name a few. They say it all stems from inside the University's Financial Aid.

According to court documents, former Texas Tech student Rojelio Hernandez worked in the University's Financial Aid Office from 1998 to 2000. During that time, and until about February of 2004, Hernandez recruited at least three people who served as "go-betweens" in the theft ring. They include Vicente Garcia Martinez, John Christian Tsyitee, and Gabriela Melissa Vazquez. Those three "go-betweens" recruited at least six other to help.

Those students knowingly give up personal information to the "go-betweens." That information was then passed onto Hernandez. Hernandez would then falsify Federal Grant Application Forms.

The students received the grants then split the money with the "go-betweens" who would then split that money with Hernandez. The four at the top of the theft-ring: Hernandez, Martinez, Tsyitee and Vazquez have all been charged with making a false statement to a federal agency.

The six students have been charged with misprision of a felony - they include Nathaniel Thomas Beckman, Bryan Lee Hudspeth, Abby Leeann Mathison, John Andrew Moretti, James Wesley Sitz and Justin Wayne Sitz.

All 10 have pleaded guilty to the charges.

So far John Moretti has been sentenced to two years probation and has been ordered to pay almost $5,000 in restitution.

The ring is still under investigation, and the Department of Education says there are others who may be charged.

We'll continue to follow this case and bring you the developments.

How can someone steal your identity? Find out how this common crime occurs and what you can do to prevent it.

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