Posted May 2, 2006 -- The former president of a small historically Black college in Atlanta pleaded guilty Monday of cheating the federal government out of millions of dollars intended for student loans and using the money to cover the campus’ debt.
Dolores Cross, who served as president Morris Brown College between 1998 and 2002, was scheduled to begin trial Monday. Instead, she copped a guilty plea for embezzlement, and in exchange prosecutors dismissed 27 other counts, according to The Associated Press.
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Drew Findling, Cross’ attorney, said that his client had worked hard for the college, which lost its accreditation and saw enrollment drop from about 2,000 to 80 students, AP reported.
“Dr. Cross hoped that her presidency would improve the school’s academic standing and build on the college’s tradition,” Findling said. “She is proud of the progress the college made during her presidency.”
Cross resigned amid charges of fraud.
According to the December 2004 indictment, Cross and Parvesh Singh, the school’s former director of financial aid and enrollment services, deceived the federal government by securing $3.4 million in student loans and Pell grants. They then used funding to help pay off $3.3 million in credit debt and school expenses, AP reported.
About $1 million was paid back to the U.S. Education Department, prosecutors said, noting that the funding had been obtained by applying for loans in the names of students who had left the college or never attended there. Most of the students were not even aware that the campus had applied for the aid.
Students should be able to “straighten this out with the Department of Education” and fix their credit records, federal prosecutor Lynn Adam told AP.
Prosecutors are asking the judge in the case to sentence Cross to 10 to 16 months behind bars. If she had been convicted, she would have been facing up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and $250,000 in fines, AP reported.
Cross’ attorneys suggested they would ask for a lighter sentence because she suffers from an undisclosed medical condition.
Singh pleaded guilty last week to one count of theft of federal financial aid funds and had been expected to testify against Cross. Attorneys for Singh and Cross emphasized that neither defendant personally benefited from the stolen funds.
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