Detroit mother, son sentenced for student loan fraud

Pair talked others into applying for loans, split money with them

By Kevin Dietz - Reporter

DETROIT - A Detroit mother and her son have been sentenced for defrauding the federal student loan program.

Candice and Jason Watkins were convicted of convincing dozens of people who were not going to college to say they were. When loan money arrived, the Watkins and her son split the money with them.

Local 4 Defenders report student loan fraud is up 82 percent in the past three years -- $874 million has reportedly been stolen by people by 85,000 people.

Local 4 legal expert Keith Corbett said these people take out loans with no intention of going to college.

"Instead it is going to line the pockets of the people charged in this scam," Corbett said.

Andy Arena of the Detroit Crime Commission said the crime is harder to track because more legitimate students are taking classes online. That, Arena said, makes it more likely criminals will take a chance.

"It's much easier to pull this type of scam. It's a little harder to do your due diligence. People are doing due diligence so I think it's an area you are going to see grow in fraud in the next few years,"Arena said.

Candice and Jason Watkins were given probation, but she was ordered to pay $80,000 in restitution and her son was ordered to pay restitution of $60,000.

The sentencing judge took that approach because if the two had been put in jail, it would have been likely the loan program would get no money back. 

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