Morris Brown President Sentenced to Five Years Probation
Dr. Dolores Cross, the former Morris Brown College president convicted of embezzling millions of dollars in government money to cover the school’s debts, has been sentenced to five years probation and a year ofhome confinement.
U.S. District Judge Julie E. Carnes says the sentence, which was agreed on by prosecutors and Cross’ attorneys, was based on her age and health and the fact that she did not benefit personally from the crime.
“The defendants have admitted their guilt, will be convicted felons, will serve sentences involving confinement and will pay restitution,” said David E. Nahmias, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, in a statement. “When the defendants arrived at Morris Brown, the college was already in serious financial condition. Thereafter, these defendants misappropriated … money in fairly complicated ways in what appears to have been a misguided and ultimately criminal attempt to keep Morris Brown afloat.” Cross, 70, was president of the 125-year-old college from November 1998 until February 2002.
She pleaded guilty in May 2006 to embezzling the funds. In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors dismissed 27 other countsagainst her.
Cross and Parvesh Singh, the school’s former financial aid and enrollment director, fraudulently obtained $3.4 million in student loans and Pell grants, in part to cover a $3.3 million credit debt and school expenses, prosecutors charged.
Singh, 64, also was sentenced to five years probation and 18 monthsof home confinement.
Morris Brown obtained the money legally but should not have kept it, prosecutors said, because loans were applied for in the names of students who had never attended the college, had already left or who had attended part-time. Most of the students had no knowledge of the loans or that they would be expected to repay them. Had Cross gone to trial on the count to which she pleaded guilty, she could have faced up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Singh pleaded guilty to one count of theft of federal financial aid funds and had been expected to testify against Cross. Attorneys for Singh and Cross said neither defendant personally benefited from the stolen funds.
The college has since lost its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges. By 2004, alumni contributions had plummeted from $5 million to just over $203,000.
With no accreditation and few funds, Morris Brown’s 48 courses have been whittled down to two, and a student enrollment that had surpassed 3,000 stood at only 66 last year. Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, president of SACS’ Commission on Colleges, says the school has not eapplied for membership.
— By Diverse staff and wire reports
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