Local man indicted for student financial aid fraud

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

HOUSTON – A 39-year-old Richmond resident has been charged with fraudulently obtaining nearly $600,000 in financial aid funds at several Texas colleges and universities, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery.

Emmanuel Finnih is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Yvonne Y. Ho at 2 p.m. today.   

A federal grand jury returned the seven-count indictment Sept. 28. He was taken into custody Sept. 30.  

Beginning in or about 2017 through to present, Finnih allegedly aided and abetted or was aided and abetted by others in submitting false applications for financial aid. The charges allege he unlawfully obtained financial aid funds for over 30 alleged students at eight colleges and universities in Texas. 

Finnih used the personal identifiers of other individuals to prepare, submit and sign false and fraudulent financial aid applications and master promissory notes in their names, according to the indictment. Finnih allegedly utilized mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email accounts he controlled to ensure that the Department of Education and colleges would send any communications directly to him. The indictment alleges he then obtained the financial aid refunds via electronic transfer, check and prepaid debit cards sent either to mailing addresses or bank accounts he had designated.

The charges further allege that Finnih aided and abetted or was aided and abetted by others in the aggravated identity theft of two alleged students. According to the indictment, he or others were also fraudulently in possession of identity documents – temporary driver permits or identification cards – with the intent to unlawfully use or transfer those documents. 

Federal financial aid funds are intended to be used for educational purposes. However, the charges allege Finnih received the funds for his personal benefit.

The actual loss to the United States is alleged to be over $595,000. 

The indictment includes one count each of theft of government funds, student financial aid fraud and unlawful use or transfer of identity documents along with four counts of aggravated identity theft.

If convicted of theft of government funds, Finnih faces up to 10 years in federal prison, while the student financial aid fraud and unlawful use or transfer identity documents each carry a possible five-year prison term. In addition, each of the aggravated identity theft counts carries a sentence of two years which must be served consecutively to any other sentence imposed.

The Department of Education – Office of Inspector General conducted the investigation with assistance from the Lone Star College Police Department and U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shirin Hakimzadeh and Charles J. Escher are prosecuting the case. 

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.