Financial Aid Fraud Ring Uncovered at Contra Costa College

Scheme funneld over $2,200 to "fake students."

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    Theater "students" at Contra Costa College collected over $2,200 in financial aid without ever stepping into a classroom.

    The scheme was simple: Sign up for a class, receive financial aid -- never go to class, keep the money.

    Over 20 "phony students" have been charged with crimes in connection to their participation in a "widespread financial aid scam," according to the Contra Costa Times.

    The game is called a "Pell runner scam" and it works like this: Alleged  "ringleader" Yvette Hummel, 45, and David Murphy, 54, would post fliers asking people to participate. Once ensnared, they would allegedly enroll in college classes and apply for financial aid. Once the $2,775 check arrived, a "student" would give $675 to Hummel -- and would also receive $50 for telling another person about the scam, the newspaper reported.

    Somehow, "about 20" of these students received As, Bs, or Cs in a drama class. The college's drama department chairman, Clay David, was placed on leave last fall after filing a claim against the school that he'd been the target of homophobia.

    The fraud was limited to students at the college's campus in San Pablo. It's unclear how heavily involved the drama department was.

    Criminal charges have been filed, with Hummel and Murphy taking plea deals that include jail time, the newspaper reported. Eight suspects are still at large, prosecutors said.