Bill Rankin, Cox News Service, December 10, 2004
ATLANTA — In 1998, Dolores Cross became president of financially strapped Morris Brown College. She then went on a spending spree, federal authorities say.
Cross nearly doubled her office staff, hired housekeepers, speechwriters and book editors and bankrolled trips for herself, her family and friends — all with college funds, federal officials charge.
Prosecutors on Thursday accused Cross of plunging the private, historically black college into such financial distress that she orchestrated a $5 million fraud scheme to try to get out of it.
The 34-count indictment accuses Cross, 68, and Parvesh Singh, 62, Morris Brown’s former financial aid director, of defrauding the school, the U.S. Department of Education and hundreds of students.
The defendants, both of whom left the Atlanta college in February 2002, deny the charges, their attorneys said.
At a news conference, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias detailed a federal indictment that accuses Cross and Singh of fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in financial aid and then unlawfully spending the money. He said Cross deceived Morris Brown’s board of trustees by concealing and misrepresenting the true state of the college’s financial aid programs.
According to the indictment, Cross used school money to pay “significant costs for numerous personal and business trips, which included expenses for more than 50 personal trips for herself, friends and family members.”
Cross increased her own full-time office staff from five to nine employees, including personal aides to handle her personal bills and her trips, the government said. She hired “an executive team and consultant staff” and had Morris Brown pay for housekeepers, speechwriters, book editors and publishers, the indictment said.
Cross and Singh turned to using money from loans they obtained on behalf of students who were unaware that the college had applied for financial aid in their names, the indictment said.
From August 1999 through January 2002, Singh obtained about 1,800 payments from federally insured loans and Pell grants for these students, who had no idea they would be responsible for paying off the loans, the indictment said.