5 sentenced for stealing millions from former Columbus theology school

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 10:20 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Five defendants faced a judge in federal court Thursday morning after pleading guilty to fraud charges. They all admit to stealing more than $12 million from the federal government.

The judge had to split up the cases into two segments due to the overwhelming amount of evidence presented by the department of education by way of the IRS, treasury department and defense attorneys.

Kristine Parker, a former administrative assistant with the Apex School of Theology, was sentenced to four years in prison, Erica Montgomery was sentenced to 4 years and three months in prison, and Leo Frank Thomas was sentenced to three years. However, Thomas says he believes the sentencing was fair. “Well I feel it was fair, for the things that I did, and I know it was wrong, but like my dad says, you have to pay the cost to be the boss,” says Thomas.

For former student Rev. Bernice Cofield, she says that amount of time is not enough. “I expected them to get more time. I really did. Before it was said that they would have received more time,” says Cofield.

According to the government, attorneys argued the defendants knew what they were doing by falsifying federal financial aid forms, creating fake email addresses, and even going as far as writing spiritual essays for students to gain entry into the school just so they could steal the money. Defense attorneys argued the government’s evidence wasn’t enough to prove how much money was actually dispersed for students or defendants. Rev. Cofield believes, either way, they should all serve more time.

“They committed a crime, so I think that once you commit a crime and you are guilty of the crime, and they have enough evidence against you, then you should do time for the crime,” says Cofield.

Sandra Anderson, the Director of the Apex School of Theology, will serve nine years in prison.

Yolanda Brown Thomas will serve more than five years in prison.