New Jersey woman pleads guilty in student-loan scam

Posted: July 29, 2011

A 23-year-old woman admitted Thursday that she filed more than 90 fradulent student-loan applications seeking more $1.7 million. The Browns Mills resident, who had taken only a handful of college courses, received more than $192,000 in the scheme, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said.

La'Vada Cruse entered her guilty plea in federal court in Camden on charges of mail fraud, tax evasion, and aggravated identity theft.

Between 2003 and 2007, Cruse applied for loans in her name or in the names of others, including family members, officials said. She secured 17 loans and $192,000 partly based on the falsfied enrollment letters from six New Jersey-area colleges, including Burlington County College.

But Cruse had only completed six credit hours of classes at Burlington County College between 2004 and 2006, officials learned.

Banks issued checks to Cruse or a fictitious student for as much as $22,000, and Cruse deposited the money into one of her bank accounts. She also admitted evading payment of taxes on the loan proceeds for 2005 2006.

She came under scrunity in 2007 when Medford police responded to the TD Bank office on Hartford Road after Cruse allegedly tried several times to withdraw money from an account that had been frozen because bank employees had raised concerns.

In the bank parking lot, Cruse was found sitting in a 2007 Mercedes-Benz that contained several loan applications, according to an arrest complaint. Cruse gave an officer a Florida identification with a false birth date.

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

Police also found identifications in various names and illegally obtained credit cards in the Mercedes.

Cruse faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the mail-fraud charge, as well as up to 10 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines on the tax-evasion charges.

Contact staff writer Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or or @darransimon on Twitter.

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