An Atwater woman appeared in a Fresno federal court Thursday accused of several crimes related to student financial aid fraud that totals $200,000.
Sherise Woolridge, 31, of Atwater, was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheila K. Oberto and pleaded not guilty to nine counts of mail fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of student aid fraud.
Her next court appearance is set for Dec. 2.
Woolridge surrendered to an arrest warrant from Nov. 7, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced in a news release.
The case is the result of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s and the United States Postal Inspection Service’s criminal investigations aimed at shutting down federal student aid “fraud rings” that seek to exploit federal student aid programs, according to a release from the Department of Justice.
According to the investigators, Woolridge participated in a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Education of student aid grants and loans. She allegedly submitted false financial aid applications to Axia College at the University of Phoenix and Capella University on behalf of students who did not intend to attend either school.
Woolridge is charged with using stolen or wrongfully obtained personal information for people who did not know their identities would be used to apply for college financial aid.
If convicted, Woolridge faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for mail fraud, two-year mandatory consecutive sentences for each count of aggravated identity theft and five years in prison for each count of financial aid fraud.
Woolridge is the niece of several defendants in the same scheme that were charged separately in 2012.
Keith Woolridge Sr., 41, of Fresno, was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft after a three-day jury trial in July.
His sisters, Piersha Dwan Woolridge, 34, of Atwater and Kim Rene Grey, 39, of Los Banos pleaded guilty to the scheme before the trial, as did co-defendant Yvette Maura August, 41, of Atwater.
Keith Woolridge has been ordered to begin serving a 31/2-year prison sentence Jan. 27; Kim Grey and Yvette August have been ordered to begin their two-year prison sentences Jan. 13. Sentencing for Piersha Woolridge is scheduled Feb. 10.