A Richmond woman was sentenced today to 63 months in prison for orchestrating a six-year scheme to defraud the United States Department of Education and the Commonwealth of Virginia of at least $230,000 in student financial aid funds.
According to court documents, from 2006 through 2017, Kiesha Pope, 48, was the director of financial aid at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, a public community college servicing the greater Richmond area.
From 2011 through 2017, Pope was involved in a scheme to defraud the Department of Education, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and Reynolds of educational funds.
Pope used her financial aid office access to manufacture or boost financial aid eligibility for individuals, often her family members, who were not eligible for financial aid. Pope directed at least four such co-conspirators to send her the majority of these financial aid funds. Pope spent financial aid funds on her personal expenses, such as a vacation on Disney cruise line, retail shopping, and expenses for her daughter.
To execute the scheme, Pope fraudulently overrode Reynolds’ internal automated controls to manually place her co-conspirators in a status that guaranteed their continued receipt of financial aid funds. For instance, Pope used her access to the Reynolds financial aid systems to procure financial aid for her son from 2011 through 2017, knowing very well that her son was not attending Reynolds. In another instance, Pope procured financial aid for her ex-fiancé while that individual – a purported student at Reynolds – was actually incarcerated.
According to the Department of Justice news release, when confronted in September 2017 by Reynolds leadership about her relationship with various academically ineligible students, Pope lied to the official, denying that she had a relationship with her co-conspirators.
To conceal the lie, Pope thereafter falsified supporting justification to substantiate the high financial aid amounts she had facilitated for her co-conspirators. In one instance, Pope forged medical documents reflecting that her goddaughter was failing to meet academic eligibility due to a breast cancer diagnosis, knowing full well that her goddaughter did not, in fact, have breast cancer.
In October 2017, Reynolds leadership again confronted Pope about her relationship with various academically ineligible students that Reynolds had realized were receiving high amounts of financial aid. In that conversation, Pope again lied, claiming not to know these students – despite the fact that those students were, in fact, Pope’s son, goddaughter, and cousin.
When pressed for supporting documentation that would justify Pope’s financial aid structuring, Pope resigned from Reynolds.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Avi Panth prosecuted the case.