A Cape Coral, Fla. woman who ran a student loan collection agency faces up to 10 years in prison after she stole $115,000 from Mississippi State University.
Nickie Bradley, 56, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of public money. Bradley, who ran H.W. Ketchum Collection Agency, contracted with Mississippi State University to collect delinquent federal Perkins loan accounts. Perkins loans are provided to needy undergraduate and graduate students through the U.S. Department of Education.
"I failed to remit all the funds I should have," Bradley told U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Polster Chappell last Thursday. "That was a bad choice - that was a regrettable choice."
Bradley told the judge she used the money for personal and business reasons. She declined to comment to local reporters after the hearing and could not be reached for comment today. According to court documents, Bradley started the business 27 years ago in Michigan, employing 21 people and collecting defaulted student loans for the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and Wayne State University.
In 2001, she moved to Florida, relocating the business to 1401 Viscaya Parkway in Cape Coral. According to the documents, she lost clients and began losing money after the move.
"She would hold back remittances each month and try to play catch up, but it was not working," the court documents state. "Soon, her only client was MSU."
And, in 2006, Bradley withheld more than $100,000 from Mississippi State University and used it to spend on payroll for employees, her and her husband, the IRS and other places. She took out lines of credit on her Cape Coral house to try to help the business, but it still went into debt and eventually closed in October.
Because she cooperated with investigators, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Haas agreed that she should be released without bond.
Chappell ordered Bradley to gain employment, where she won't be dealing with money, until her sentencing date, which hasn't been set.
Bradley could be sentenced to 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release and fined $250,000.