Sentences are now being handed down in the Texas Tech theft ring where students defrauded the US Department of Education out of more than $200,000.
On Friday, US District Judge Sam Cummings sentenced the so-called ringleader of the scheme to 30 months in prison. Rojelio Hernandez must also pay more than $122, 751.00 restitution. Court documents show Hernandez admitted that from April 2000 to February 2004 he caused the signing and submitting to the U.S. Department of Education Free Applications for Federal Student Aid on behalf of students at Texas Tech. He was a Texas Tech student and was working for the financial aid office at the time. Hernandez used false financial income information to qualify the students to receive the funds. He apparently knew the students did not qualify.
Hernandez assisted students whose name and social security students were brought to him by one of four individuals: Dorman "Dodd" Hawley, Vicente Garcia Martinez, John Christian Tsyitee and Gabriela Vasquez. These students served as the "go-betweens." They served as intermediaries between Hernandez and the Texas Tech students they recruited. The students were told that once the applications were processed, they would receive a check in the mail which they were to cash immediately.
The "go-betweens" were charged with their roles in the scheme and have been sentenced. Friday, Tsyitee was sentenced to 180 days home confinement, five years probation and ordered to pay $14,043 in restitution. Last month, Martinez and Vasquez were each sentenced to 180 days home confinement and five years probation. Martinez must pay $26, 910 restitution. Vasquez must pay $29,098. Hawley is deceased.
Hernandez completed, signed and submitted approximately 31 fraudulent signature pages on the grant applications. Even after he left employment in the financial aid office, he continued to remotely access the university's computer system to continue the scheme. He altered or removed verification for 26 students. In total, Hernandez falsely qualified 33 students as eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants. The students paid half of the money they received to the "go-betweens," who in turn delivered the remainder to Hernandez. Hernandez retained $72, 525 from the scheme for personal use. The total amount of this part of the scheme is $200,000.
While the investigation continues, the following defendants have pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and have been sentenced. Nathaniel Beckman must serve three years probation and pay $7,161.88 restitution and $1,588.12 in prosecution costs. Bryan Lee Hudspeth must serve two years probation and pay $3,300 restitution. Abby Leann Mathison must serve one year probation. John Andrew Moretti must serve two years probation and pay $4,775 restitution and $1,825 in prosecution costs. James Wesley Sitz must serve three years probation and pay $6,035 restitution. Justin Wayne Sitz must serve three years probation and pay $6,375 restitution.
Other defendants have been indicted in this scheme. Last month, a federal grand jury in Lubbock returned a 22-count indictment against former Texas Tech students Jessica Ann Back, Jacob Edmond Lustgarten and Amanda Jayne Sheils. The indictment alleges they submitted fraudulent applications for Federal Pell Grants and received money they did not qualify for.
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