Adams stepfather accused of $262K student loan swindle
Amanda Murphy can't get a teaching job because prospective employers who run a credit check find she's more than $440,000 in debt, most of it from fraudulent private student loans her stepfather took out, a Butler County detective said.
“Nobody's touching her. She's not getting callbacks,” said Detective Scott Roskovski. “It's not fair to her. She didn't do anything wrong.”
Paul Dazen, 52, of Adams, owner of Innovative Cleaning Services, is awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges filed last week of theft, receiving stolen property and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities. Neither he nor his attorney, David Shrager of Pittsburgh, returned messages.
Murphy, who is staying with family in the Youngstown area, approached county detectives in December 2010, saying banks were calling and demanding school loan payments. The Tribune-Review could not reach her for comment.
With late fees and interest, banks said she owed $444,662, Roskovski wrote in a criminal complaint supporting charges against Dazen.
A 2009 Geneva College graduate with a degree in education, Murphy said her mother, Pamela Dazen, and stepfather agreed to pay her student loans, valued at about $79,000. Paul Dazen borrowed to pay the tuition, but between March 2006 and July 2007 applied for loans beyond what was needed, according to the complaint. At her stepfather's request, Murphy signed loan paperwork, Roskovski wrote.
“Once the loan checks would come, Dazen would have Ms. Murphy sign the back when she was home,” Roskovski wrote. “Ms. Murphy never looked at the amounts; she just assumed it was for her school loans, and never dreamed her mother and stepfather would take advantage of her.”
Roskovski said that Dazen impersonated his stepdaughter in emails to lenders, saying that the money would be used for college expenses, including a computer.
Roskovski would not say whether Pamela Dazen would be charged.
Students need to be careful when co-signing loans, said Mike Reiber, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, which services private bank loans but does not loan money.
“They need to understand what they're signing and what their responsibilities are as to signing a loan,” Reiber said. “We've handled all sorts of cases involving fraud, including where people apply for loans and never go to school.”
Dazen deposited checks into an account for his business and added Murphy to the business account as a signator, according to Roskovski, who said Dazen used the loan money for business and personal expenses.
Murphy told detectives she didn't know her name was on the business account or what Dazen did with the money.
Detectives accuse Dazen of depositing $262,504 in fraudulent loans and found no record that any of the money went toward Murphy's education at Geneva.
Roskovski said he tried to mediate the issue through Shrager and to have Dazen assume the debt, but “it just didn't work out.”
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.