AROUND THE STATE: Man sentenced to federal prison for financial aid, COVID-19 fraud

Staff Report

A Baton Rouge man was sentenced to 132 months in federal prison following convictions for wire fraud, financial aid fraud, and engaging in transactions involving property derived from unlawful activity.

According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Gathe Jr., 34-year-old Elliott Sterling of Baton Rouge was further sentenced to three years of supervised release following his term in prison and order to pay $2,760,422 to the U.S. Department of Education and $90,000 to the Small Business Administration.

Following an eight-day trial, the jury unanimously convicted Sterling of five counts of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the Department of Education's federal student aid program, two counts of financial aid fraud, and two counts of wire fraud involving the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which was designed to assist businesses during the pandemic. Sterling was also convicted of six counts of money laundering involving the proceeds of two wire fraud schemes. The jury ordered the forfeiture of $422,632.38 in fraud proceeds that the FBI had seized.

Serial counterfeiter sentenced to federal prison

In a separate news release, Gathe announced that Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick sentenced 32-year-old Trenton Underwood of Denham Springs to 36 months in federal prison following convictions for conspiracy to manufacture and possess counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes, manufacturing counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes, and the possession of counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes.  

The court further sentenced Underwood to serve three years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment and ordered all instrumentalities used in the scheme be forfeited.

According to admissions made as part of his guilty plea, in early 2022 Underwood and others made and attempted to pass counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes in exchange for retail and food items.

On Feb. 3, law enforcement recovered more than $1,240 in cut counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes, 66 pages of uncut counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes in various denominations, and items used to manufacture counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes including a printer with a $20 Federal Reserve Note taped to the glass, boxes of linen paper, printer cartridges, paper cutters and dryer seats.

According to the release, this was Underwood’s fourth counterfeit conviction. He had three prior state convictions for counterfeit and was on parole for one of these convictions when he committed the above federal offense.

In this November 1960 file photo, U.S. deputy marshals, including Charles Burks, top left, escort 6-year-old Ruby Bridges from William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

Ruby Bridges' school added to civil rights trail

The New Orleans school that was desegregated by Ruby Bridges in 1960 has become a stop on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail.

According to an Associated Press report, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and members of Bridges' family were in attendance as a marker commemorating the event was unveiled Jan. 12.

Bridges was 6 years old when she first walked into William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.