Office of Government Information Services, or OGIS, is supposed to be Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) ombudsman. I contacted OGIS with a request for assistance with Department of Education FOIA process. I received a response from OGIS current director Alina Semo.
Based on the actual case addressed here, it's hard to say, whether the current OGIS director is very poorly informed about how the Department of Education and its business partners actually operate, or does not care about looking into the FOIA process related problem areas, or is trying to help out friends at the Department of Education.
This forces me to question, what is OGIS actual mission under the current management? Further, this makes me wonder, does Ms. Semo believe that she is actually contributing to resolving FOIA request related problems by denying their existence? Or is this just her form of bureaucratic escapism?
The open letter published below addresses both Department of Education FOIA process related issues and a wider scope of relevant problems.
Alina M. Semo, Director
National Archives and Records Administration
Office of Government Information Services
8601 Adelphi Road - OGIS
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Dear Ms. Semo,
Thank you for the response dated 02/15/2018. Please note that this is an open letter that I will publish on the Internet, on StopExtortion.org and may also publish on other websites.
I requested Government Information Services (OGIS) assistance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process.
It is unfortunate, that you chose to rubber stamp the information provided by the Department of Education without paying any attention to the problems related to this case. By doing so you help to facilitate fraud and FOIA request violations.
It is also unfortunate that you proceeded without providing any explanation for why the clearly deficient records are valid and accurate in your opinion, other than implying that the existence of records proves them to be accurate.
So, I am forced to continue to work on this case. In addition to contacting your office, I will also contact the Department of Education and the Department of Justice. Thereafter I will contact individual members of Congress. This will take us through the end of the current administration. During the next administration, as needed, the process will start all over again, at that time as part of the current administration's – and your – legacy.
I have no desire to cause problems to the Department of Education or to any of the people working there. However, as long as the institutions involved refuse to address the problems related to this case and the Department of Education refuses to close this case, I am in a situation where I must continue to work on this case. So, the case goes on and on.
Ms. Semo, your letter also represents important aspects of what is wrong with this case:
Further, please note that while for 6 years the Department of Education has failed to validate its claims and a lot remains unknown about this case, the statements about the Department of Education's wrongdoings can all be validated.
I attended Rhode Island College 1990-1996 and graduated in 1996. I received Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship, Pell Grant and work-study financial aid that covered the cost of my attending the college.
Based on its own admission, in 2008, which is 12 years after I graduated from college, the Department of Education created internal records based on a guaranty agency records, stating that I received bank loans as a student.
Based on the available information in 2008 the Department of Education created these consumer lending records without existence of the actual consumer lending transactions and corresponding actual consumer lending documents. Neither Congress nor any other institution has ever authorized the Department of Education to operate this way.
Subsequently, the Department of Education started using these internal records as if these records were based on actual, real life lending and borrowing transactions. When I requested debt validation in 2011 after a collection agency contacted me, the Department of Education's case quickly fell apart. Instead of providing actual debt validation, the Department of Education provided partial copies of my financial aid applications and copies of internal records that were created after I graduated.
Everything that I have seen that supposedly validates the debt was created after I graduated. Further, currently the Department of Education keeps this case open by using mail fraud and honest service fraud – apparently, with your support.
There are fundamental problems with how the Department of Education managed infrastructure works:
There is ample of documented evidence presented on StopExtortion.org that demonstrates that all of the above applies to the case addressed here.
I did not address all of the above problem areas in my correspondence to your office, but I did address several of them.
Ms. Semo, your response indicates that under your direction OGIS did not even attempt to address any of the problem areas and FOIA request violations that were listed in my correspondence to your office. Instead, you simply rubber stamped the information that the Department of Education provided you.
Further, you did not provide any explanation for why you believe that the Department of Education's records are accurate, other than implying that because the records exist, they are accurate.
This forces me to question, what is OGIS actual mission under your management?
Let's address the Notice of Loan Guarantee and Disclosure Statements again that you listed as part of proof that the Department of Education's records are accurate. By doing so, you supported document fabrication.
The Department of Education representatives have admitted to creating and distributing Notice of Loan Guarantee and Disclosure Statements in 2012 by entering my information into the relevant system in 2012, while I graduated from college in 1996. The Department of Education representatives falsely informed me that the documents they sent me were copies of my original Notice of Loan Guarantee and Disclosure Statements, thus engaging in deliberate fraud. Only when I spotted that they had used a different bank's name than in previous correspondence, and that they had used my address from 2012, they admitted that these were not copies of my original documents, but instead were documents created in 2012.
Ms. Semo, I have to advise you not to support usage of such fabrications and fraud.
Further, Ms. Semo, please think about the above. Perhaps then you start to realize, that the Department of Education and its business partners can create any records that they want in their database systems. Mere existence of records in any of Department of Education or its business partners systems does not in any way whatsoever validate the accuracy of the records that were created without existence of documents that demonstrate that relevant real life transactions did took place.
Perhaps you also start to realize, that guaranty agency can create false records either erroneously or fraudulently, so that they can fill the blanks somewhere. Later these records become part of the Department of Education's records. Then people like you come along and say – look, these records are in the Department of Education's central database. Thus, they must be accurate! Log in there and see for yourself!
This case has its origins in the 1990s. As this case demonstrates, in the past the Department of Education and its business partners were functioning without the needed checks and balances that would reliably tie the computer records to real life lending and borrowing transactions. This is part of the problems that we are addressing here.
The source documents that led to the current situation are closely related to Request for Claim Reimbursement forms and handwritten notes that were created by a guaranty agency. However, no validation has been offered that would demonstrate that the claim reimbursement forms were based on actual lending and borrowing transactions and this is where the problems start.
Similarly, no validation has been offered that would demonstrate that any claim reimbursement was actually paid – or even submitted by a bank. Why do we only have Request for Claim Reimbursement documents created by guaranty agency and no claim that was actually submitted by a bank and no records of any payments made to a bank? Based on the available information it is certainly possible that the existing claim reimbursement documents were not created in the late 1990s, but much later, after I requested them – just like Notice of Loan Guarantee and Disclosure Statements in 2012 and Indemnification Agreements that suddenly surfaced in 2015 but were backdated to 2007.
Because no lending and borrowing transactions or documents exist, it seems likely that the Request for Claim Reimbursement forms were created erroneously or fraudulently. The erroneous or fraudulent origins of these documents could have been initially created either on a bank's side or on Department of Education business partner's side, or on both sides. We don't know.
It may very well be that there never was any request for reimbursement from Fleet National Bank and the entire case was created after Fleet National Bank was sold and was no longer in the picture. Seems convenient, but even then the initial records could have been created erroneously.
However, we do have proof that both the guaranty agency in question and the Department of Education used to like to operate by filling in the blanks when needed and as needed instead of stating that something does not exist, and this can be a real source of problems. It means that once they created the initial records at some point, they could have created any other documents simply to have the full picture.
I did fill in financial aid applications, but the partial copies of Application and Promissory Note financial aid applications that the Department of Education has presented do not in any way indicate that I received any bank loans. No validation has been offered that any bank loan related records were created before I graduated and, once again, no bank loan related lending and borrowing documents exist.
Further, the original Application and Promissory Note financial aid documents apparently had front and back end. The copies that the Department of Education uses have been created by putting two previously copied pieces of paper next to each other and declaring that these are two sides of one document. The two previously copied pieces of paper used this way do not contain any identifying information at all that relates them together, such as person's name, Social Security Number, document specific ID or any other identifying information on both pieces of paper. Thus, there is no way to know with certainty whether or not the two previously copied pieces of paper actually are part of the same person's original document.
In addition to creating documents in this manner, partial copies of documents have been recycled without existence of the original documents. Also very convenient. If they actually earnestly considered the Application and Promissory Note financial aid documents to be legally binding debt instruments where both sides of the document mattered, then why not to make duplex copies? Copy machines that can make the needed duplex copies have been around for a long time.
Further, the Department of Education uses Application and Promissory Note financial aid documents that bear visible signs of alterations. It seems that the part that contains the Promissory Note text has been placed on the financial aid application document separately, before making a copy of it.
This alone is a cause for concern. It is unknown, who and when created these Application and Promissory Note financial aid documents that the Department of Education uses and why any alterations and manipulations were used in the process of making of these copies.
The Department of Education has refused to provide information in the above areas. You probably have access to these documents. So, feel free to examine them. After all, in your letter you clearly support the Department of Education's positions. Before doing so, you should be fully familiar with what it is that you support.
Further, keep in mind that while I graduated from college in 1996, the Department of Education records were created in 2008, based on the records that the guaranty agency as Department of Education's business partner had created.
Both creating consumer lending records in 2008 without any actual consumer lending documents and creating in 2012 Notice of Loan Guarantee and Disclosure records and documents show, that the Department of Education infrastructure functioned without the checks and balances that would tie the records that were created to real life lending and borrowing transactions.
Further, the Department of Education's real life operations during the previous administrations demonstrate that this institution and its business partners had no problem with creating documents at will on "as needed" bases. When they needed additional documents to fill the blanks, they just created the needed documents and declared that these were copies of the "original" documents that were created in the past. That's how the Department of Education led infrastructure used to operate and we have real life proof of this.
In addition, the Department of Education infrastructure functions so that after the records were created, any subsequent transactions, such as my requests for debt validation, have been used as "proof" of indebtedness regardless of the validity and accuracy of the records that the Department of Education has.
You cited Request for Claim Reimbursement, which in reality are internal forms and handwritten scratch papers created by a guaranty agency. No documents have been furnished demonstrating that a bank actually submitted any actual claim reimbursement requests, or that any actual claim reimbursement payments were made, or that Request for Claim Reimbursement paperwork was related to actual lending and borrowing transaction.
Ms. Semo, I have to advise you not to support usage of such dubious sources of information.
You cited NSLDS as Department of Education's central database for student aid as if that somehow validates the information that has been provided.
Please explain to me, how in your opinion does creating consumer lending and borrowing records over a decade after the alleged transactions were supposed to take place, without existence of any actual lending and borrowing transactions and documents and without existence of any actual legally binding promissory notes validate the accuracy of the records that were created this way?
Department of Education's creating internal records more than a decade after a student graduated from college, without existence of any actual lending and borrowing transactions and documents, and without existence of any actual legally binding promissory notes DOES NOT CREATE DEBT. Actual lending and borrowing transactions create debt.
Ms. Semo, can you please kindly explain, why this is so difficult to understand?
Perhaps the following example helps you to understand the problems that are related to this situation. Please think about the following scenario: you Alina Semo go to a state owned college where the cost of full-time attendance is around $2,000 a year and apply for financial aid. You receive college's Honors Scholarship, Pell Grant and work-study financial aid that covers the cost of your attending the college. You do not qualify for and do not receive any bank loans.
Over a decade after you graduate, a government agency creates internal records stating that you borrowed money as a student. Absolutely no bank lending and borrowing documents exist and absolutely no relevant legally binding promissory notes exist. Absolutely no records exist that demonstrate that as a student you actually received the allegedly borrowed money either directly, or indirectly as tuition support. The government agency has only partial copies of your financial aid applications, in addition to internal documents and records that were all created after you graduated from college. The allegedly borrowed principal balance is over 20 times bigger than the full-time annual tuition and nobody can explain where the allegedly borrowed money went to or how it was supposedly used.
When you request debt validation, the government agency does not provide any validation of the debt, but instead starts applying extortion-like techniques, using a network of its nationwide collection agency business partners in the process.
So, please tell me honestly, would you really believe that you actually owe money in such a situation? Further, what would you do? Would you pay the fictional debt, even though you did not receive any bank loans?
Ms. Semo, in my earlier correspondence to your office I already specified what information is needed. You ignored that part of my correspondence. Instead, your letter incorrectly states that "Specifically, you filed a request for your student loan records." Ms. Semo, once again, this is incorrect. The Department of Education FOIA Unit deliberately uses generalizations such as "request for student loan records," while ignoring the more specific aspects of the requests. This way they can respond by sending anything they want to the person who made the FOIA request and do not have to admit, that the requested documents do not actually exist.
Now you accommodate the Department of Education FOIA Unit by using the same pattern. Did you do this accidentally, perhaps, or are you purposely trying to facilitate FOIA request violations by the Department of Education FOIA Unit?
For the record I will specify the information that is needed. Based on the available information, the alleged loans simply do not exist. So, we need documents and information that help to determine, whether or not any debt obligation actually exists.
Further, keep in mind that for as long as this case remains open, it also will keep evolving. Because the claims reimbursement documents have an important role in this case, I am now a request for copies of these documents as well. Obviously, we do not need any documents showing that the Department of Education reimbursed the guaranty agency. That is between the Department of Education and the guaranty agency and is not relevant to my request.
Similarly, we do not need any paperwork with dubious origins that was submitted by the guaranty agency and may have been created at a later date. We need copies of reimbursement requests made by a bank and records that payments were made to a bank.
The claim reimbursement documents requested above, that Fleet National Bank would have submitted, would have been created after I graduated from college in 1996.
The rest of the requested documents requested below would have been created before I graduated from college in 1996.
An important aspect is that if I received any bank loans as a student, then that must have taken place before I graduated from college in 1996. Thus, the Department of Education should not send me documents and computer records that were generated by third parties after I graduated in 1996 as “proof” on bank loan lending and borrowing transactions that allegedly took place before I graduated in 1996.
Similarly, if the Department of Education claims that I borrowed money from Fleet National Bank, a commercial entity, as student loans when I attended Rhode Island College 1990-1996 and that the Department of Education holds relevant legally binding promissory notes, then the Department of Education must furnish copies of the actual legally binding promissory notes that meet the Uniform Commercial Code requirements. Sending out financial aid applications in lieu of actual legally binding promissory notes that meet the Uniform Commercial Code requirements is fraud.
The Department of Education has had over 6 years to work on this case and has dragged me along. As of today, I have not received any documents that demonstrate that the alleged student loan lending and borrowing transactions actually took place, that I actually received the allegedly borrowed money either directly, or indirectly as tuition support, and that the corresponding legally binding valid debt instruments exist.
The Department of Education is making monetary demands in this case. Therefore, it is the obligation of the Department of Education to furnish qualifying proof that the monetary demands are valid.
The Department of Education claims that I borrowed money from Fleet National Bank, a commercial entity, as student loans when I attended Rhode Island College 1990-1996. Further, the Department of Education claims that it holds relevant legally binding promissory notes. The Department of Education is responsible for validating such claims and the corresponding monetary demands. In accordance with case law, (citing)
The above citation is applicable to the time period when the alleged loans were made. Thus, the Department of Education is in the shoes of the alleged lender, Fleet National Bank, a commercial entity. Of course, the Department of Education is in a peculiar situation here, because no loans exist. So, the Department of Education could claim that the above case law does not apply to it because no loans exist. However, then the aspect that there is no valid base for making any monetary demands would become even more obvious.
The Department of Education employees have stated that they and their collection agency business partners have sent me copies of promissory notes for student loans. This is incorrect. I have never received any copies of promissory notes of the alleged bank loans. I have received partial copies of my financial aid applications. Obviously, promissory notes of bank loans and financial aid applications are different documents.
The financial aid applications that I filled in and signed are approximately half a page long and do end with a short section that is labeled Promissory Note. Below that section is the only place on the application for a signature and that is where I signed my financial aid applications as a student. Based on these financial aid applications I received Rhode Island College Honors Scholarship, Pell Grant and work-study financial aid that covered the cost of my attending Rhode Island College 1990-1996.
My signing the financial aid applications below the section that is labeled Promissory Note does not in any way make me a borrower. A bank actually lending money to me and my accepting the loan would make me a borrower. In that case, the relevant documents and records would demonstrate that lending and borrowing took place.
According to the information received, the alleged student loan lender was Fleet National Bank, a commercial entity that is subject to Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) requirements. As I have found out through my research, actual legally binding promissory note documents must contain the following information in order to meet the UCC requirements:
The financial aid applications that I signed do not contain any such information, because these are merely financial aid applications. No lending and borrowing transactions took place. Without lending and borrowing transactions relevant documents and information do not exist and no valid debt obligation exists either.
Another UCC requirement is that a legally binding promissory note must be an unconditional promise to pay. The financial aid applications that I signed fail this requirement as well, because they do not state with certainty that the financial aid applicant will receive or has received any loan amount at all. Similarly, the financial aid applications that I signed do not in any way demonstrate that I borrowed any money whatsoever.
Ms. Semo, I have to advise you not to support Department of Education's usage of mail fraud.
The Department of Education has never furnished the requested documents and information. Instead, the Department of Education has sent me following types of documents:
The documents that the Department of Education has sent me fall into the following categories:
Vast majority of the documents that the Department of Education has sent me have been copies of my correspondence to the Department of Education, requesting documents addressed here.
For example, if the current operating practices will continue, the letter that you are reading now, will also become part of additional "evidence" that I owe money to the Department of Education. The Department of Education employees will make an electronic copy of it and when I will request documents identified in the above subsection Information that Is Needed, then instead of sending me the requested documents, they will send me copies of my correspondence to the Department of Education and other institutions, together with other material that was generated after I graduated and with partial copies of my financial aid applications.
However, if the current operating practices will continue, the Department of Education will once again refuse to send me any actually requested material, or admit that the requested documents simply do not exist. This way, this case continues because I am forced to continue to work on this case.
What we need instead, are the documents and information listed in the above subsection titled Information that Is Needed. Equally importantly, if such documents and information do not exist, the Department of Education must admit that they do not exist.
Ms. Semo, I have to advise you not to support Department of Education's usage of honest service fraud and FOIA request violations.
As is stated in the beginning of this letter, I will contact the Department of Justice and members of Congress. Doing so can help to increase awareness on how the Department of Education actually operates and increases probability, that I will find people who actually care about following laws.
Further, my objective is to make sure that the Department of Education no longer can use mail fraud, honest service fraud and involuntary servitude in this case.
Further, it is likely that while the Department of Education reimbursed the guaranty agency, Fleet National Bank did not submit any reimbursement claims and the guaranty agency did not make any payments to Fleet National Bank regarding this case. Otherwise, why aren't there any documents that show that Fleet National Bank submitted claims and claim reimbursement payments were made to Fleet National Bank? All the relevant documents that I have seen were created by the guaranty agency. If the guaranty agency created the claim reimbursement forms and handwritten notes actually in 1997, why were these scrap papers kept for all the years but the actual claims submitted by a bank and payment documents to the bank were not kept, if they actually existed at all? Let's shed some light into this. Once we dig into this, I’m pretty sure that we will find out that the guaranty agency making claim reimbursements has no real life backing. It's just couple of scratch papers that that were created fraudulently.
So, once we have established that no lending and borrowing transactions took place, and that financial aid applications cannot be used in lieu of real promissory note legally binding documents, and that in this case the stories about claim reimbursements made to Fleet National Bank are unvalidated bogus, then what's left?
What's left is a case of modern era of slavery, a case where the Department of Education has deliberately and purposefully forced me to work in involuntary servitude conditions for the sake of personal and professional gain of the Department of Education employees and business partners for over six years – as of now. Who knows how many years it will total before we finally will be done with this case.
The Department of Education cannot pin its usage of extortion, document fabrication, involuntary servitude, bullying and harassment on the guaranty agency or any other agency, because it is the Department of Education that through systematic actions has caused the real problems and suffering in this case and knowingly keeps this case open.
At this point I have to stress again that I have no desire to cause problems to the Department of Education or any of the people working there. However, as long as the institutions involved refuse to address the problems related to this case and the Department of Education refuses to close this case, I am in a situation where I must continue to work on this case. So, the case goes on and on.