Man stole nearly $600,000 in student financial aid through yearslong scheme, feds say

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For years, a Texas man orchestrated a scheme to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in student financial aid, according to federal authorities. Now he has been charged in federal court.

Emmanuel Finnih, 39, is accused of stealing nearly $600,000 in financial aid money by acting as over 30 students at eight Texas colleges, according to an Oct. 3 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.

The Richmond man was arrested on Sept. 30, two days after he was indicted by a grand jury. He faces charges of theft of government funds, aggravated identity theft, student financial aid fraud, and unlawful use or transfer of identity documents.

Finnih was employed by Texas Southern University when he began defrauding the government of student financial aid in 2017, according to the federal indictment.

From 2017 through 2022, authorities say he submitted college admission applications for about 32 people at Houston Community College, Lone Star College, Texas Southern University, Blinn College, Tarrant County College District, Wharton County Junior College, Lee College and Austin Community College.

He used fraudulent and stolen names, birth dates, electronic signatures and background information, according to court records.

Finnih then submitted fraudulent Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) files on behalf of those individuals, prosecutors said. He also enrolled them in academic courses.

“In some cases, (he) recruited individuals to provide him with their personal identifiers and in other cases he utilized the personal identifiers of unwitting individuals without their knowledge or consent,” authorities said. “In at least one instance, the individual was incarcerated at the time Finnih submitted falsified FAFSA forms in the individual’s name.”

Authorities said he “created numerous false documents and submitted them in support of the fraudulent applications, including, but not limited to, false college transcripts, hospital discharge forms, medical bills and letters, homeschool records, driver’s licenses, and temporary driver’s permits.”

Finnih’s defense attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News on Oct. 3.

In total, authorities say he caused the schools to offer about $595,543.44 in student financial aid. Finnih then used the money “for his own personal benefit and not for education expenses as required.”

“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,” officials said. “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.”

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