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Lee-Collier-Charlotte
Business Observer Sunday, May 2, 2021 1 week ago

School CEO admits to student loan scheme, staged phony class

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Elaine M. Levidow admitted to a fraud that stretched nearly two years.

FORT MYERS — A Fort Myers businesswoman who owned a school designed to improve students’ employability skills, has admitted to her role in a scheme that defrauded a federal student loan program out of at least $90,000.

Elaine M. Levidow, 60, of Fort Myers, pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and one count of fraud involving Department of Education Financial Aid, according to a statement.

Levidow, beginning in approximately July 2017 and continuing through April 2019, devised and perpetrated a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Education of more than $90,000 in Title IV Federal Student Assistance, according to the plea agreement. The program is the primary federal loan and grant funds available to students attending college and career schools. The U.S. Department of Education requires Title IV funds be applied only to specific allowable charges, including tuition, mandatory fees and room and board contracted by the participating institutions of higher education.

Levidow, as owner and CEO of The Training Domain in Fort Myers, 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 didn’t 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, the U.S. Attorney’s office says in a statement.

In other instances, officials contended 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 she knew many if not all the students did not have a high school diploma or a GED, the rerelease states, but she enrolled them anyway. She also admitted 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, officials said.

“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,” the release states. “Instead, Levidow used the  FSA funds to pay for her own personal expenses.”

Levidow 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. The Department of Education and Office of Inspector General in investigated the case.

 

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