- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Prince William County special-education teacher has been put on administrative leave after being charged in connection with a plot to swindle more than $36,000 in student loans.

County school officials said Monday that teacher Anthony Girrard Ward, 34, was placed on leave following a Jan. 15 Fairfax County traffic stop in which state police say he presented a fake Maryland driver’s license. Troopers then found he was facing extradition in Prince George’s County with 11 felony charges, including property theft, identity fraud and forgery.

Mr. Ward had since Aug. 25 taught a course titled “Life Skills” to autistic students at Parkside Middle School, in Manassas.

“Its very disappointing, and this is not a pleasant thing for us to deal with,” Prince William County schools spokesman Ken Blackstone said.

Neither Mr. Ward nor his public defender could be reached for comment.

Mr. Ward stole the identity of a Bowie resident and used it in October to apply for a student loan through American Education Services (AES), according to charging documents in Prince George’s County District Court. On Oct. 15, he purportedly tried to deposit a check with the Maryland State Employees Credit Union in the amount of $12,490. Prosecutors said a bank official noticed a hologram missing from Mr. Ward’s driver’s license and called police.

Mr. Ward admitted to the scam while talking to Secret Service officials called to the credit union, in Berwyn Heights, according to the court documents. He also said he would meet later with police to discuss others involved in the plot, the documents stated.

A warrant was issued for Mr. Ward’s arrest Jan. 9, after he failed to meet with police.

Another loan of $24,980 had been approved for Mr. Ward. However, it was not mailed because he did not provide proper documents to AES.

Investigators also said they found that Mr. Ward had used a stolen Social Security number belonging to a person who lives in Washington state.

School officials said Mr. Ward’s fingerprints were given to the FBI and state police during his hiring process and that he did not appear on criminal databases.

Reference checks with his previous employers also came out clean, school officials said.

“There are over 10,000 employees with Prince William County schools, and we endeavor to screen everyone thoroughly,” Mr. Blackstone said.

The school sent a letter to parents Jan. 29 confirming the arrest of Mr. Ward and stating he was put on leave until the investigation is concluded.

Officials said Mr. Ward came to Parkside with 16 years of teaching experience, including stints at schools in Prince George’s County and the District.

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