ID thieves have new target: prison inmates - CBS 5 - KPHO

ID thieves have new target: prison inmates

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A number of inmates at Perryville Prison, west of Phoenix, have committed some serious crimes.

Now, some female inmates are learning what it's like to be the victim of a crime.

The U.S. attorney's office has just indicted four Valley women of fraud, theft of public funds and identity theft.

They're accused of stealing the identities of several inmates so they could turn around and apply for thousands of dollars in federal student financial aid.

According to court documents, the women filled out financial aid applications back in 2009 using the inmates' names, then applied for online classes at Rio Salado College in Tempe.

It worked. The indictment states that the women received more than $150,000 in loans and grants to pay for tuition, books and other expenses.

The money left over was then sent to the women's addresses in the form of prepaid Visa cards, the court papers said.

CBS5 went to the home of the supposed ring leader, but no one answered.

Ryan Chase is dean of student services at Rio Salado College.

He said that a heads-up staff member put an end to the crooks' free ride on campus.

"A member of our staff was alerted to a situation that was suspicious," said Chase. "She reported it appropriately through our management group who then brought in law enforcement authorities."

Chase said that identity theft and financial aid fraud are serious problems at colleges across the country, but this is the first time he's heard of someone stealing a prison inmate's name to sign up for school.

The key to reducing student loan fraud is cracking down on application irregularities, said Chase.

"It is difficult to spot right away," Chase said. "We are constantly vigilant to monitor trends and patterns."

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