She seemed like a typical college undergraduate, with student loans, boyfriends and a job. But according to prosecutors, she also happened to be a woman in her 40s who had used the Social Security card information of her estranged daughter to get a driver’s license, enroll in a university and obtain financial aid.
For about two years, Laura Oglesby, now 48, pretended to be in her 20s and used her daughter’s name, said Chief Jamie Perkins of the Mountain View Police Department in Missouri.
“Everybody believed it,” Chief Perkins said. “She even had boyfriends that believed that she was that age: 22 years old.”
On Monday, Ms. Oglesby pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally providing false information to the Social Security Administration, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri.
Ms. Oglesby could face up to five years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing date has not been set. Under the terms of her plea agreement, Ms. Oglesby must also pay $17,521 in restitution to Southwest Baptist University in Missouri and to her daughter Lauren Ashleigh Hays.
In total, Ms. Oglesby received $9,400 in federal student loans, $5,920 in Pell Grants, $337 for books purchased at the university’s bookstore and $1,863 in finance charges.
Social Security fraud and identity theft are crimes that can be “a very, very common kind of issue,” according to Nikos Passas, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University. From April 1 to Sept. 30, there were more than 270,000 allegations of Social Security fraud, of which more than 167,000 were categorized as impostor schemes, according to a federal report.
In some cases, parents unlawfully applied for loans using their child’s name, without their child knowing.
By pleading guilty, Ms. Oglesby admitted that she had fraudulently applied for a Social Security card in January 2016 and later used it to apply for a Missouri driver’s license. She also admitted that in 2017 she used the Social Security information to enroll at Southwest Baptist University and obtain financial aid.
Ms. Oglesby and her lawyer did not immediately respond to calls on Wednesday requesting comment.
Her story unraveled in August 2018, after the Mountain View Police Department was contacted by the authorities in Arkansas. They were searching for Ms. Oglesby, who they said had stolen Ms. Hays’s identity in that state in 2017 to commit financial fraud and embezzle more than $25,000. The authorities in Arkansas told the Mountain View police that they believed that Ms. Oglesby had been living under the fake identity in Mountain View, Mo., a city about 40 miles north of the Missouri-Arkansas state line.
The Mountain View police investigated and learned that Ms. Oglesby was living there and working at a city library, Chief Perkins said.
“She actually was employed here, which was kind of odd,” Chief Perkins said. “And that’s how we figured out who she was.”
The police then pulled her over during a traffic stop. She initially denied that she was Laura Oglesby, Chief Perkins said, but once they showed her proof that they knew who she was, she admitted it.
“She was just running because she was in a domestic violence relationship, and she’d been running for years,” Chief Perkins said Ms. Oglesby told the police. “We don’t know her life story outside of what she told us, but we know what happened here.”
The Mountain View police then arrested Ms. Oglesby on the bench warrants from Arkansas, Chief Perkins said. Her case in Missouri encompassed allegations of federal crimes in both states. “She had lived that life for a couple of years and basically just ruined her daughter’s credit,” Chief Perkins said.
Ms. Hays did not respond to calls on Wednesday requesting comment.
In a statement on Tuesday night, Southwest Baptist University said that it had “cooperated fully with the investigation.”
“We were saddened to learn about the situation,” the university said. “Our prayers are with all involved.”