Federal prosecutors are charging the parents of a 2013 College graduate for allegedly inaccurately reporting financial information to the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, according to a criminal complaint filed June 27 in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
According to the complaint, Joseph N. Fonge and Barbara E. Fonge reported false income figures to the University between 2010 and 2013 in an attempt to defraud the College of financial aid funding.
The family was consistently awarded more than $50,000 in aid per academic year until 2012, at which point the College discovered the reporting inaccuracies. During that academic year, the total cost of attending Harvard was $54,496.
Applicants for financial aid typically submit the federal FAFSA form to determine eligibility for federal aid and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE for purposes of calculating institutional aid. Additionally, the College uses IDOC, an information service operated by The College Board that collects financial information, such as federal income tax returns, and electronically provides Colleges with such forms.
Prosecutors claim that the Fonges provided false information on many of these forms.
“Joseph N. Fonge and Barbara E. Fonge caused false and fraudulent financial information to be submitted to FAFSA and IDOC, by, among other things, underreporting their wages, income, sources of income, and adjusted gross income reported on their federal income tax returns,” U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz and Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria A. Wild wrote in the complaint.
The Fonges are charged for three counts of wire fraud, corresponding to documents submitted in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Colin Manning said that while he could not comment on individual financial aid cases, the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid goes to great lengths to make sure aid is properly awarded. Manning did not respond to questions about the frequency with which the College believes it receives falsified information related to financial aid.
"When there are questions regarding eligibility that arise, we take these matters seriously and work to make sure all financial aid is awarded and disbursed appropriately,” Manning wrote in an email.
Repeated calls to the Fonge residence were not returned.
—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.