Burlington County woman accused of obtaining thousands in fraudulent student loans

Posted: August 12, 2010

A Burlington County woman received $192,000 in student loans even though she took only two college courses in three years, authorities allege.

La'Vada D. Cruse, 23, of Browns Mills, was arrested Tuesday on federal charges that she submitted 92 fraudulent student-loan applications from 2003 through 2007, according to federal records.

Cruse came under scrutiny in 2007 after police questioned her in the lot of a Medford bank, where she was sitting in a silver Mercedes-Benz E320 that contained numerous loan applications, according to an arrest complaint.

Cruse's public defender, Maggie F. Moy, said Wednesday that she could not comment on the case. Cruse is also charged with mail fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Authorities allege that beginning in 2003, Cruse applied for dozens of loans in her name and the names of others, seeking more than $1 million. She secured 17 loans partly based on falsified enrollment letters from six New Jersey colleges and fake work records, authorities said.

Banks issued checks for as much as $22,000 to Cruse or a nominee, and she deposited the money in accounts she controlled, authorities said.

Federal officials later learned that Cruse completed only six credit hours of classes at Burlington County College between 2004 and 2006.

In 2007, Medford police were called to the TD Banknorth branch on Hartford Road after Cruse allegedly tried several times to withdraw money from an account frozen because of concerns bank employees had raised.

Asked for identification, Cruse gave the officer an I.D. from Florida with a false birth date, according to the arrest complaint.

"That's a fake I.D. I just use it to get into clubs," she acknowledged, according to the complaint.

In the Mercedes, police found identification in various names and illegally-obtained credit cards, the complaint said. Authorities also confiscated financial statements.

A local investigation grew into a federal probe that involved investigators from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the IRS, and the U.S. Postal Service.

If convicted, Cruse could face a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a $1 million fine.

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838 or bboyer@phillynews.com.

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