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Authorities say NJ high school legend ripped off student loans

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Authorities have charged North Jersey basketball legend Kerry Dressel and her partner with defrauding the government of more than $115,000 in student loans that instead went toward other purposes.

“She didn’t use it for school — that’s for sure,” said a source familiar with the charges.

Also arrested in connection with the alleged scheme was Rachel Kressaty, 27, of Wayne, a former assistant coach under Dressel who helped her partner obtain a fake name to receive student loans for what was supposed to be attendance at Centenary College in Hackettstown, and to pay for advanced degrees at New Jersey City University and Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Dressel

Authorities said Dressel (left), 43, of Wood-Ridge, never attended either Centenary or JCU but did go to FDU — though she didn’t pursue an advanced degree there.

Instead, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said, Dressel used $30,000 of the money to pay tuition for two students at St. Mary’s High School in Rutherford, where she had starred and then coached for several years. This not only clearly vioates state regulations but also puts St. Mary’s at risk of sanctions, the prosecutor noted.

The second-leading girls scorer in Bergen County high school basketball history, Dressel was quietly fired recently as girls basketball coach at her alma mater after officials there were approached by investigators from the county prosecutor’s office. It is unclear whether she’s also lost her job as a teacher at Shepard High School in Morristown.

The detectives showed proof that Dressel had received more than $115,000 from the federal student loan assistance program in the name of someone else. The money was never used for academic purposes at Fairleigh-Dickinson University, where Dressel did go to school, authorities said.

Rather, “she used the majority of the proceeds to pay her personal expenses,” Molinelli said.

“In some instances, Dressel paid the players’ tuition to St. Mary’s High School and masked the source of the funds by diverting payments through third parties. At other times, she would issue checks directly to a parent of one of the players,” Molinelli said.

“This is in violation of the rules and regulations as set forth by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association which governs high school athletics,” he said.

Dressel committed ID theft when she submitted an application for a $35,300.00 student loan for the academic year 2007-2008, the prosecutor said. Kressaty (photo right), a former assistant under Dressel and a fellow teacher at Shepard High, got the phony identification and completed the application, the prosecutor said.

Dressel received a check dated August 30, 2007 in the amount of $35,300.00 from Education Finance Partners, then deposited it into a personal checking account on September 7, 2007, Molinelli said.

A week later, she began using the money for personal expenses, he said.

But that was only the start, authorities said.

Using the same scheme, Dressel obtained student loans of $40,000 (Jan. 31, 2008), $20,372.00 (July 21, 2008) and $19,628.00 (Sept. 16, 2008) and deposited the money in her own account, authorities said.

A subpoena was issued for deposit records, which showed that each check came fom the Sallie Mae Tuition Answer Loan Program. Dressel’s personal checking account was in a negative balance each time she deposited the Sallie Mae Tuition Loan checks, Molinelli said.

Barely five and a half feet tall, Dressel is a legend at St. Mary’s, where her Gaels jersey hangs in a glass case in the gymnasium. She is one of only seven girls in Bergen County history to score more than 2,000 points.

She also was named First Team Coach of the Year just last year by the Bergen County Scholastic League.

The immortal Anne Donovan — the Paramus Catholic star and three-time Olympian who coached the U.S. women’s basketball team to a gold medal in Beijing last year — was the first girls player to reach 2,000 and remains the county’s all-time scoring leader with 2,582 points. She also holds the state and county record for points in a season with 1,015.

Dressel is number two on the all-time list, with 2,566 points.

Dressel also was an assist machine at FDU, with 720 in her career there — including the top two single season assist totals: 193 as a junior and 229 as a senior. She set a single game record with 17 assists versus St. Francis of New York in 1988.

She earned All-ECAC Metro Second Team honors as a junior in 1988 and followed up by being named to the ECAC Metro First Team as a senior in 1988. FDU also inducted her into its athletic Hall of Fame.

She is charged with theft by deception and identity theft, among other counts. Kressaty is charged with theft by deception and conspiracy. Both remain free on bail.

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