A Dallas woman accused of posing as an online student is facing charges after Pima Community College and five other schools were jointly scammed of at least $20,000 in student aid, federal officials said.
Sussette Sheree Timmons, 30, was indicted by a Texas grand jury last week on several counts of financial aid fraud committed between 2008 and 2011 at PCC, Coconino Community College, three universities in New Mexico and one in Iowa.
PCC spokesman C.J. Karamargin said he couldn't comment on how much federal money the Tucson school lost or when the incidents took place. He said the suspect's educational records are protected by federal law.
The indictment, filed last Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, said PCC gave Timmons at least $5,700 - more than any other school named in the case - before cutting her off in 2011. It said she registered online for five PCC courses she never intended to complete.
After embezzling aid money from the schools, Timmons allegedly would call to berate their financial aid officials, claiming she'd been shortchanged on the total amount of aid owed, the indictment said.
At PCC, for example, she called and "accused the financial aid office of 'messing up her money,' " it said.
At Coconino, which gave Timmons more than $3,900 in 2011, she formally appealed the school's decision to suspend aid payments.
Coconino denied the appeal, noting Timmons had withdrawn from 13 colleges and universities since 2009, the indictment said.
This is the second time in recent years that a financial aid scam at PCC has come to public attention.
In 2011, the college lost more than $270,000 to a ring of con artists based in Mississippi who applied for aid over the Internet, pretending to be online students.
Schools typically must replace federal money they lose to fraud.
Karamargin couldn't immediately say how much money in total PCC has lost in online aid scams since the Mississippi case.
"The amount has not yet been determined because there are on-going investigations regarding the incidents. The college cannot declare fraud without closed cases," he said.
The Associated Press reported from Dallas that Timmons "remains at large."
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.
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