former mount. San Jacinto College basketball player wins $250,000 after suing school – Press Enterprise

A former basketball player won the Mt. San Jacinto College is suing its former coach and teacher, who claimed they altered financial aid forms.

Emily Stalow received more than $4,500 in financial aid after alleging that then-basketball coach Fonte Mozga forged her financial aid form in 2018. Bob Otelli, the Stalow family’s attorney, alleged in a 2020 press release that Mozga’s plan was to “acquisitively obtain It is illegal to obtain funds from the Department of Education to support the school’s athletic program.”

Emily Stalow of Morita Mesa High School, left, tries to stop Vista Morita High School’s Kiara Barton during the 12th annual Desert Valley basketball game at Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore in 2018. Stalow, who went to play with Mount San Jacinto College has won a civil lawsuit against the college. (File photo by Frank Bellino, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

“I think it was very emotional for Emily because she had been exposed for nearly four years and (felt) she was somehow responsible for this,” Otelli said.

Ottilie refused to allow an interview with Stallo.

In a statement, the Mount San Jacinto Community College District said it plans to appeal the September ruling “through appropriate legal avenues and not through the media.”

The county also said it did not agree with the “profiles of evidence” in a news release from Otelli’s office announcing the ruling.

Before enlisting at Mount San Jacinto College, Stalow was a star player of Morita Mesa High School. During her first year on the college team, the women’s basketball team won the conference championship for the 2018-2019 season.

An email statement from Ottilie said Stallo left the college and team in the 2019-20 school year because Mozga had been coach for more than a year following Stallo’s allegations.

Courtney L. Hilton, an attorney representing Mount San Jacinto College, said the college returned federal and state funds awarded to Stallo in 2018.

The jury voted unanimously in favor of Stalow. The jurors decided Stallo was wrong by 10%. The referee said Mozja and Fantaya Willingham, a Mount San Jacinto financial aid technician, were 25% responsible, and the college was at fault 40%.

Mozja’s lawyer, Maria K. Arvig, said Mozja declined to comment on the ruling. Willingham, who left college in 2019, could not be reached for comment.

Because Stallo gave her the login information to Mozga, Otelli said, she was responsible for some of the damage she did.

Hired in 2018, Stallo was summoned by Mozga that year for login information to obtain a free application form for federal student assistance, Stallo’s lawsuit alleges. Three months later, Stallo began receiving checks and was paid free tuition — although her family was not eligible for these benefits when she initially filled out the form in October 2017, according to the lawsuit.

When Stallo received her first check for $1,016 from the school, the lawsuit alleged that Mozga told her she was lucky and that “some of the girls on the basketball team get these checks as funding from the school.”

Once her parents found out that the checks their daughter was receiving were not from the school but from federal aid, they returned the money to the college. Stallow and her family claim that they received no proof that the college returned the money to the government.

Hilton said that the US Department of Education’s account of Stallo does not currently indicate that she received money in 2018, which indicates that the money her parents paid to the school has been returned.

She also said that student file Stallo had been cleared of documents related to the incident.

Otelli said that in order to get Stallo off her tuition and financial aid, Mozga eliminated her parents’ income, added that she had given birth to a child, added four siblings to her family and wrote that she earned $6,500 in 2016 — all of which were bogus.

Mozga and Willingham told Stallo that she could use the money after she and her parents discovered errors in her financial aid form.

In the lawsuit, Stallow claims that she believed that “at least one other colleague, if not more, was the beneficiary of funds similarly received.”

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