LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Lester Fernandez, Special Agent in Charge, United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, Atlanta Region, announced today that Eric B. Donaldson, 45, was sentenced to fifteen (15) months’ imprisonment today by the United States District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra in West Palm Beach, Florida. Donaldson had previously pled guilty to education loan fraud, in violation of Title 20, United States Code, Section 1097. In addition to the term of imprisonment, Donaldson was also ordered to pay restitution of $393, 546.76, and to serve a term of three (3) years on supervised release following imprisonment.
As set forth in the Information, and as Donaldson admitted when he pled guilty and at sentencing, Donaldson was the President and owner of Summit Institute, LLC, Summit Education, LLC, and Summit Advertising, LLC (“Summit”) from approximately 2000 through 2004. Summit was a for-profit school offering post-secondary education primarily designed to prepare students for technical careers in the fields of insurance, travel, massage therapy and medicine. The school operated in West Palm Beach, Florida. Summit received funds on behalf of its students through the United States Department of Education Title IV loan and grant programs. Under the programs, in the event a student withdrew, dropped out, or otherwise failed to complete enrollment in a particular course for which a loan had been made, Summit was required to refund or credit that loan. Summit, at the direction of Donaldson, failed to make approximately $393,546.76 in refunds or credits on behalf of approximately 246 students. Donaldson admitted that he knowingly and willfully failed to refund these federal student loans and credit balances through Summit.
United States Attorney Acosta stated, “These loans were meant to benefit students who otherwise could not afford an education. By failing to return these funds, the defendant prevented these limited funds from being available for use by other qualified students.”
“I am proud of the contribution of OIG Special Agents in holding Eric Donaldson accountable for his fraudulent activity,” said John P. Higgins, Jr., Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education. “The misappropriation of federal education dollars by Mr. Donaldson came at the expense of the students who attended the Summit Institute. That is unacceptable. My office will continue to aggressively pursue those who seek to defraud federal education programs at the expense of our nation’s students.”
Mr. Acosta commends the investigative efforts of the United States Department of Education, Office of the Inspector General. This case was being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Carolyn Bell.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.