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July 1, 2011

WOMAN CHARGED WITH STEALING 262000 DOLLARS FROM FIVE COLLEGE STUDENTS

WOMAN CHARGE

D WITH STEALING $262,000 FROM FIVE COLLEGE STUDENTS UNDER GUISE OF HELPING THEM OBTAIN FINANCIAL AID TO PAY BACK RESTITUTION IN ANOTHER FRAUD CASE

SANTA ANA - A woman was arrested this afternoon on charges of stealing $262,000 from at least five unsuspecting students by taking loans out in their names under the guise of assisting them with getting money for college. Carla Ann Brennan, 63, Laguna Hills, is charged with five felony counts of grand theft, five felony counts of money laundering, two felony counts of identity theft, and sentencing enhancements and allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, loss over $100,000, property loss over $150,000, money laundering in excess of $150,000, and crime-bail-crime. The enhancement for crime-bail-crime indicates that the defendant was out of custody on bail in another criminal case at the time of the crime. If convicted, Brennan faces a maximum sentence of 16 years and four months in state prison. She is being held on $262,000 bail and is required to prove the money is from a legal and legitimate source before posting bond. Brennan is expected to be arraigned tomorrow, Wednesday, June 22, 2011, in Department CJ-1, Central Jail, Santa Ana. The time is to be determined.

Background
In 2006, Brennan and her then-husband Anthony Brennan were charged with filing false tax returns and making false financial statements (Case #06HF0677). Prior to the resolution of this criminal case, the defendants paid $100,000 to the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) of the $188,000 they owed in unpaid taxes and penalties. Carla and Anthony Brennan divorced during this time.

Both defendants pleaded guilty July 31, 2008, and were ordered to pay the remaining restitution, complete community service, and were placed on five years of formal probation. Unbeknownst to law enforcement, Carla Brennan is accused of defrauding at least five victims in a scheme to both personally profit and pay back the restitution (see below).

Circumstances of the Current Criminal Case
Between August and December 2007, Brennan is accused of stealing $262,000 from five students, ages 17 to 23 years old, under the guise of assisting them in obtaining financial aid for college. She is accused of using some of the stolen money to repay FTB and keeping the rest for personal expenses. The defendant is accused of meeting her victims through her children.

Brennan is accused of convincing at least five students to provide her with their personal identifying information including their name, address, social security number, date of birth, and phone number with the promise of assisting them in obtaining money for college. She is accused of instructing the victims to sign documents, which they did not read or understand, without telling the victims that they were signing student loan applications.

Without the knowledge of the students, Brennan is accused of stealing the identities of two additional victims and using the stolen identities as co-signers on the student loan documents. One of the identity theft victims was a friend of one of Brennan’s sons and was a U.S. Marine Corps Iraq war veteran.

When a student received checks in the mail, ranging between $19,000 and $30,000, the defendant is accused of instructing the student to meet her at a bank in Mission Viejo. Each of the checks had both the name of the student and the name of a stolen identity as the payees. Brennan is accused of claiming to the student that the other name was that of a separate student whom she was also helping.

At the bank, the student would sign the check in the teller’s presence and Brennan is accused of then instructing the teller to cash the check and/or provide her with a cashiers check. Brennan is accused of giving the student between $1,000 and $2,000 and keeping the rest. She is accused of stealing $262,000 in all.

Several months after meeting Brennan at the bank, the victims began receiving bills from the issuing bank of the loan. Brennan is accused of telling the students not to worry and claiming that she was taking care of the situation. She is accused of failing to make any payments on the loans, which ultimately all went into default in the names of the students and identity theft victims.

One of the victims reported the theft to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated this case.

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