THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. APRIL 12, 2013. Almost two dozen people are facing charges in connection with an alleged financial-aid fraud ring at California’s Contra Costa College. The scheme is known as a “Pell runner” scam, and has affected many other colleges. Criminal charges were filed last year, though the case continues, with the authorities still searching for eight suspects. Four others agreed to plea deals, and the remaining 10 have court dates this month.
The elaborate fraud ring at the San Pablo community college campus, according to prosecutors, was hatched by a Richmond couple in 2011. Authorities say ringleader Yvette Hummel, 45, and her boyfriend David Murphy, 54, ran the scheme like a business, using fliers and contracts to recruit people for their scam. Hummel would obtain personal information from the recruits and use it to enroll them in college classes and apply for financial aid, court records show. In exchange, Hummel asked for a 25 percent slice, about $675 of the $2,775 a student on financial aid receives per semester, and offered a $50 referral fee, records show. None of the alleged scam artists is younger than 30, and many are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.