He took out $1.4M in bogus student loans, blew $235K at casinos, prosecutors say | Courts

A Baton Rouge gentleman employed faux significant faculty diplomas and transcripts, impersonators and even inmates in an elaborate two-calendar year plan to enrich himself by defrauding the federal university student financial loan technique of $1.4 million.

A 2020 federal grand jury indictment accused Elliott Sterling of filing bogus paperwork to enroll people today at Baton Rouge Neighborhood College by misrepresenting educational records, money and the variety of dependents on personal loan purposes.

Prosecutor Rene Salomon instructed a federal district court docket jury Wednesday that Sterling — whom he explained as a “fraudster” — pretended to be a higher education scholar 180 occasions and falsified tutorial skills for 168 learners.

Some 150 college students outlined their mother’s maiden name of “Sterling” as the remedy to a protection problem on federal college student bank loan apps, the prosecutor mentioned. Sterling also bought 42 bogus superior faculty transcripts for $5,000, he stated.

That jury quickly and unanimously convicted Sterling on all 15 counts he confronted.

The panel also purchased the forfeiture of extra than $422,000 in fraud proceeds that the FBI seized from Sterling in the variety of a $130,000 cashier’s check and $292,000-in addition from credit rating union accounts in his identify.

An FBI agent testified Wednesday that the rest of the dollars Sterling fraudulently obtained from the U.S. Section of Education and learning and the Small Business enterprise Administration involving September 2017 and November 2019 is long gone.

Salomon advised the jury that Sterling “blew” $253,000 at casinos across the state.

U.S. District Decide Brian Jackson purchased a presentence investigation and scheduled Sterling’s sentencing for July 7. He stays free of charge.

Sterling, who does not have a law degree but represented himself through the demo, loudly insisted throughout his closing argument to the jury Wednesday that “you are not on the lookout at a prison.” He explained his organization, Sterling Academic Consulting, “was by no means to enrich myself.”

But Salomon and fellow prosecutor Elizabeth White argued that is specifically what Sterling did, with the former saying he did so by “lying, dishonest and thieving.”

When questioned for documentation by BRCC, Sterling assisted the pupils with giving untrue data, his indictment alleged. Sterling would at times current himself as a scholar or pay back other people to impersonate pupils at BRCC, prosecutors explained.

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Sterling also concealed his purpose as the preparer of the pupil mortgage applications, Salomon mentioned.

Salomon argued that Sterling “hijacked the system” and “exploited each and each and every one” of his clients.

Some of the economic support — countless numbers of dollars — was in the names of two inmates, the prosecutor said.

“Who’s on the cellular phone speaking to those inmates? This person!” he explained, pointing at Sterling.

Salomon reported Sterling saved 66% of the money he acquired for learners.

“The guts of the circumstance is Sterling’s greed,” he said.

Sterling, who proclaimed his innocence and mentioned he didn’t “hustle” his shoppers but was remaining punished for “creating revenue,” told the jury that “today is the working day I certainly believe that justice will be served.”

It took the panel just around an hour to uncover him guilty on the 15 counts of wire fraud, economic assist fraud and money laundering.

“The defendant was not encouraging people today, he was aiding himself,” White instructed the jury in the government’s rebuttal closing argument. “The defendant exploited the pupils he made use of them. He selected people today that he could exploit.”

Prosecutors claimed Sterling would give the students some of the revenue he obtained for them but failed to notify them it had to be repaid.

“Who is caught with the invoice?” Salomon asked the jury. ‘The students that he manipulated, together with the taxpayers.”