Two people have been arraigned for operating a scheme to obtain thousands of dollars by stealing the identities of Emory University law and medical students.
According to United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates, Maario Coleman obtained lists of students graduating in the class of 2013 by checking university websites and attending graduation ceremonies.
Yates said Coleman and Angela Russell then used that information to obtain the students' dates of birth and social security numbers from online databases.
Coleman and Russell applied for post-graduate "bar loans" and "residency loans" at Discover Bank. "Bar loans" are designed to pay for living expenses and exam preparation while law school graduates studied for the bar exam. Similarly, "residency loans" assist medical school graduates with the costs of residency, relocation, and board exam review courses.
"The alleged actions of these two defendants demonstrates how every member of our community is vulnerable to identity theft and computer intrusions," said Yates. "The potential for causing damage to Emory students' financial and professional futures cannot be overstated. We continue to work aggressively to combat this problem."
In many instances, Discover required school transcripts before it would approve and fund the loans. To satisfy this requirement, Coleman and others used the personal identifiers of the victims to obtain passwords to access Emory's online portal and order the victims' transcripts.
According to Yates, Coleman then coordinated sending the transcripts to Discover and arranged for the loan proceeds to be deposited into bank accounts fraudulently opened in the victims' names. After the loans were funded, other participants in the scheme obtained the funds via ATM withdrawals.
Yates said the scheme began as early as May and continued until at least Nov. 6, when officers interviewed Russell regarding the scheme.
Following the interview, the agents went to a second location, and then returned to Russell's residence. When they arrived, agents saw a large volume of smoke rising from Russell's apartment. After entering the apartment, agents found Coleman and Russell inside, burning documents and dismantling computer equipment.
To date, investigators have identified over $200,000 in false loan applications. Over 100 students at Emory and other Georgia universities had their personal information compromised.
Coleman, 27, of Decatur, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of computer fraud and one count of tampering with computers and documents.
Russell, 42, of Dunwoody, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and one count of tampering with computers and documents.
Emory released the following statement:
"Emory University is deeply committed to safeguarding all personal information entrusted to the institution. Several enhanced security measures have been put in place by University Technology Services to protect the personal information of the graduates.
"In addition, both schools notified all of their 2013 graduates earlier this semester that some members of the class had their personal information used in a fraudulent manner to make loan applications to a private lender, possibly obtain other credit accounts, and/or to obtain Emory academic transcripts.
"All members of each class have been advised on ways to protect their personal information and monitor their credit reports. They also are being provided access to identity protection and credit monitoring services at no expense to them."
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.