Fort Myers woman pleads guilty to financial aid fraud and wire fraud
Elaine M. Levidow, 60, of Fort Myers, has pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of fraud involving Department of Education Financial Aid.
She faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud and up to 5 years’ imprisonment for the financial aid fraud. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
According to the plea agreement, beginning in approximately July 2017 and continuing through April 2019, Levidow devised and perpetrated a scheme to defraud the United States Department of Education of more than $90,000 in Title IV Federal Student Assistance (FSA), the primary federal loan and grant funds available to students attending college and career schools.
The United States Department of Education requires that the Title IV funds be applied only to specific allowable charges, which include: tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board contracted by the participating institutions of higher education.
As the owner and Chief Executive Officer of The Training Domain, Inc., located in Fort Myers, Levidow used a website to market her company as offering business software application courses to make individuals more employable.
As a part of the scheme, Levidow knowingly enrolled students that did not have a high school diploma or GED certificate, making them ineligible to receive FSA funds, and she assisted them in applying for FSA funds.
In one instance, Levidow knowingly enrolled a student who was a felon serving a life term in a Florida State prison, assisting him in obtaining FSA funds even though he was ineligible.
In other instances, Levidow applied for FSA loans on behalf of students without telling them, then caused those FSA funds to be wired to Training Domain even though it was not entitled to them.
Levidow admitted to agents that she knew many if not all the students did not have a high school diploma or a GED, but she enrolled them anyway. Further, she admitted that she staged a fictitious class, during an accreditation visit, with students who did not attend class and whom she paid to be there to make it appear she was actually holding classes.
Further, although Levidow’s business, Training Domain, was represented to be an educational institution, she did not use FSA funds to pay for students’ tuitions since her business did not actually hold required classes. Instead, Levidow used the FSA funds to pay for her own personal expenses.
This case was investigated by The United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Yolande G. Viacava.