A Cascade resident, Ricci Lea Castellanos, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, after being convicted of illegally obtaining around $126,000 in federal student aid through a fraudulent scheme involving enrollment at Great Falls College, Montana State University.

U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich announced the sentencing.

Guilty Plea

Castellanos, 35, had previously pleaded guilty in March to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The sentencing was overseen by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris, who also ordered Castellanos to pay $68,175 in restitution.

Case Details

According to court documents, the government's case alleged that from January 2016 to December 2019, Castellanos and others surreptitiously enrolled family members and unwitting individuals in online courses at Great Falls College, Montana State University.

During this period, they applied for and received federal student aid amounting to approximately $126,219 despite not meeting the eligibility requirements.

Furthermore, Castellanos and her associates deceitfully submitted American Indian Tuition Waivers and utilized fraudulent tribal enrollment forms to obtain student living expense refunds.

One particularly egregious act involved Castellanos forging the signature of an individual identified as "Jane Doe 1" to apply for enrollment with Great Falls College fraudulently.

As a result, Castellanos received $2,378 in financial aid, which was subsequently withdrawn in cash. It was later revealed that Jane Doe 1 had reported her identity as stolen to the Great Falls Police Department.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ryan G. Weldon and Benjamin D. Hargrove and was investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General.

Great Falls & Cascade County November 2023 Most Wanted. Become a Tipster with Crimestoppers.

Great Falls & Cascade County November 2023 Most Wanted. Become a Tipster with Crimestoppers. 

Gallery Credit: Bejay Lindseth

25 True Crime Locations: What Do They Look Like Today?

Below, find out where 25 of the most infamous crimes in history took place — and what the locations are used for today. (If they've been left standing.)

Senior Citizen Arrested for Shameless Bank Fraud by Eagle Police

🚨 Eagle, Idaho. Eagle Police detectives, in partnership with Garden City Police, apprehended Anubor Bagbi earlier this week in connection with multiple counts of bank fraud.

🥔 While the Las Vegas man targeted Idahoans earlier this week, the 62-year-old is currently wanted by state and federal authorities in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, and South Dakota on charges of identity theft and fraud.

📱 Scroll on for details regarding the conman's arrest for bank fraud in Eagle, Idaho.

Gallery Credit: Ryan Valenzuela

More From 94.5 Max Country