Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
January 6, 2012
Susan Kang Schroeder
WOMAN SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS IN PRISON FOR STEALING $262,000 FROM COLLEGE STUDENTS UNDER GUISE OF HELPING THEM OBTAIN FINANCIAL AID TO PAY BACK RESTITUTION IN ANOTHER FRAUD CASE
SANTA ANA – A woman was sentenced today to seven years in state prison for 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, pleaded guilty today to five felony counts of grand theft, five felony counts of money laundering, two felony counts of identity theft, one felony count of filing a false tax return, and sentencing enhancements and allegations for aggravated white collar crime over $100,000, loss over $100,000, 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.
In addition to her prison sentence, Brennan was ordered to pay almost $262,000 in restitution, $31,000 to the State of California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), and $524,000 in fines to the County of Orange.
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 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 was defrauding at least five victims in a scheme to both personally profit and pay back the restitution (see below).
FTB investigated this case.
Circumstances of the Current Criminal Case
Between August and December 2007, Brennan stole $262,000 from five students, ages 17 to 23 years old, under the guise of assisting them in obtaining financial aid for college. She used some of the stolen money to repay FTB and kept the rest for personal expenses. The defendant met her victims through her children.
Brennan convinced 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 instructed 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 stole the identities of two additional victims and used 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 instructed 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 claimed 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 then instructed the teller to cash the check and/or provide her with a cashiers check. Brennan gave the student between $1,000 and $2,000 and kept the rest. She stole $262,000 in all. The defendant failed to claim any of the stolen money on her tax returns.
Several months after meeting Brennan at the bank, the victims began receiving bills from the issuing bank of the loan. Brennan told the students not to worry and claimed that she was taking care of the situation. She failed 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. FTB also participated in the investigation of this case.
Deputy District Attorney Marc Labreche of the Major Fraud Unit prosecuted this case.