Ex-Mt. San Jacinto College basketball player wins $250,000 after suing school – Press Enterprise

A former Mt. San Jacinto College basketball player has won $250,000 in damages after suing her former Coach and school, which she alleged altered her financial-aid forms.

Emilee Stallo received more than $4,500 in financial aid after, she alleged, then-basketball Coach Fontay Mozga falsified her financial aid form in 2018. Bob Ottilie, the Stallo family’s attorney, alleged in a 2020 news release that Mozga’s scheme was “to illegally obtain money from the Department of Education to buttress the school’s Athletic program.”

Murrieta Mesa High School’s Emilee Stallo, left, tries to stop Vista Murrieta High School’s Keiara Barton during the 12th annual Desert Valley all-star basketball game at Lakeside High School in Lake Elsinore in 2018. Stallo, who went on to play for Mt. 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 Emilee because she’s been exposed for almost four years now and (she felt) that she was somehow responsible for this,” Ottilie said.

Ottilie declined to allow an interview with Stallo.

In a statement, the Mt. The San Jacinto Community College District said it planned to challenge the September verdict “through the appropriate legal avenues and not through the media.”

The district also said it disagreed with “the characterizations of the evidence” in a news release from Ottilie’s office announcing the verdict.

Before being recruited to Mt. At San Jacinto College, Stallo was a Murrieta Mesa High School all-star player. During her first year on the college team, the Women’s basketball Squad won the 2018-19 season conference championship.

Stallo left the college and team in the 2019-20 school year because Mozga was still the Coach more than a year after Stallo’s allegations, an emailed statement from Ottilie said.

Courtney L. Hylton, an attorney representing Mt. San Jacinto College, said the college has returned the federal and state money that was given to Stallo in 2018.

The jury unanimously voted in Stallo’s favor. Jurors determined that Stallo was 10% at fault. Mozga and Fantaya Willingham, a Mt. San Jacinto financial aid technician, were each 25% responsible and the college was 40% at fault, the verdict said.

Mozga’s attorney, Maria K. Aarvig, said Mozga declined to comment on the verdict. Willingham, who left the college in 2019, could not be reached for comment.

Because Stallo gave her login information to Mozga, she was responsible for some of her own harm, Ottilie said.

Recruited in 2018, Stallo was called by Mozga that year to get the login information for her Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, Stallo’s lawsuit alleged. Three months later, Stallo began to receive checks and got free tuition — although her family had not qualified for those benefits when they initially filled out the form in October 2017, according to the suit.

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

Once her parents figured out that the checks their daughter was receiving were not from the school but federal aid, they returned the money to the college. Stallo and her family allege that they have not received proof that the college returned the money to the government.

Hylton said Stallo’s US Department of Education account currently does not indicate she received money in 2018, which shows that the money her parents paid the school was returned.

She also said Stallo’s student file has been cleared of documents about the incident.

Ottilie said that, to get Stallo a tuition waiver and financial aid, Mozga eliminated her parent’s income, added that she had a baby, added four siblings to her family and wrote that she earned $6,500 in 2016 — all of which were false.

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

In the lawsuit, Stallo alleges she believes that “at least one other teammate, if not more, have been the beneficiary of funds received in a similar manner.”

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