Former Murrieta Mesa basketball player, Emilee Stallo, and her family, sued MSJC and a former Assistant Women's Basketball Coach due to allegations of financial aid fraud from 2019. Valley News/Courtesy photo

MURRIETA (CNS) – An athlete recruited to play on the women’s
basketball team at Mount San Jacinto Community College was victorious in her
lawsuit alleging that a former coach submitted false information — ultimately
covered up by campus officials — to the federal government concerning
eligibility for financial aid, for which she didn’t qualify.

Emilee Stallo and her family sued the college and former Assistant
Women’s Basketball Coach Fontay Mozga in 2019 after the plaintiffs confirmed
that financial aid grants had been filed for her benefit — even though Stallo
had previously learned she was ineligible to receive the funds.

Stallo and her family considered Mozga’s and the campus’ actions
fraudulent and initiated legal action when law enforcement failed to act,
according to attorney Robert P. Ottilie.

A Murrieta jury agreed with the plaintiffs’ contentions that the
defendants made misrepresentations that caused her emotional harm and last week
awarded Stallo $250,000 in compensatory damages.

“Emilee Stallo escalated this matter all the way to the president of
the college, Roger Schultz, and then took it to every law enforcement agency
with potential jurisdiction,” Ottilie said. “Emilee Stallo was a true
whistleblower, and the jury has vindicated her when everyone else, including
her own college president, looked the other way.”

In a statement released to City News Service, Mount San Jacinto
College said it intends to “challenge the verdict through the appropriate
legal avenues and not through the media.”

“The college disagrees with the characterizations of the evidence in
Ms. Stallo’s attorney’s (statement),” the college said.

Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez has not yet ruled
on non-monetary actions connected to the case, including the disposition of
Stallo’s student files, so the litigation is not yet finished.

According to the plaintiffs, in 2017, then-18-year-old Stallo was
recruited to play for the champion MSJCC Eagles, but when she applied for
tuition assistance by filing a Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, she
was turned down.

A Murrieta jury awarded former Murrieta Mesa basketball player, Emilee Stallo, $250,000 in compensatory damages due to allegations of financial aid fraud at MSJC in 2019. Valley News/Hudl courtesy photo

Evidently concerned how this might impact Stallo’s ability to attend
the community college, Eagles Assistant Coach Fontay Mozga intervened, the
plaintiffs argued during trial.

Ottilie alleged that Mozga gained access to Stallo’s FAFSA account and
re-submitted the application, “falsely stating that Stallo had a baby”
and making income adjustments to justify awarding the young woman a Pell Grant.

More than $4,500 was provided to Stallo, and when she and her father
discovered her tuition had been covered in full, they were baffled, the
attorney said. The money was disbursed directly to the college by the U.S.
Department of Education.

Stallo discussed the matter with Mozga, who allegedly attempted to
talk the plaintiff out of giving back the funds, according to the plaintiff’s
testimony.

The matter was escalated, with complaints to campus administrators,
who refused to act, Ottillie said. He said MSJCC President Roger Schultz
“looked the other way” rather than confront the possibility of fraud in the
campus athletics department.

Mozga was terminated in April 2020, after the lawsuit was filed.

“Three different financial employees of the college testified at
trial that they believed that if it was established a college employee was
responsible for the fraudulent form, the college would lose their ability to
disburse federal and state financial aid, and this would have a ‘devastating
impact’ on their financial status and their student population,” Ottillie
said.

According to the attorney, efforts to prompt investigations by the
Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s Office and U.S.
Attorney’s Office went nowhere. However, the U.S. Department of Education did
initiate an investigation that is ongoing. Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.