On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Polk County Sheriff’s detectives arrested 50-year-old Margaret Pilgram* and charged her then-boyfriend, 54-year-old Michael Wayne Montgomery (who was already in the Polk County Jail) with one count each grand theft (F3), and obtaining property by fraud (F3), after they defrauded Warner University of nearly $3,500.00. Montgomery was also charged with one count giving false information to law enforcement during an investigation (M1).
According to their affidavits, Montgomery and Pilgram were dating before and during the time when Montgomery was in state prison from 2017 to January 2019. From August 2011 to November 2016, Pilgram was employed by Warner University.
While Montgomery was in prison, Pilgram told him that she was having financial issues, so she enrolled Montgomery as a student at Warner for the summer 2018 and spring 2019 terms, and completed a student loan application for him, which was approved. She also communicated with the school back and forth through the student email account created in Montgomery’s name, with the exception of one occasion where she attempted to communicate with the school from her own personal email account.
Pilgram created an American Express Bluebird account, where the student loan check from Warner for $3,454 was deposited. During recorded phone calls from prison, the couple discussed the fraudulent activity, including the classwork being completed by “Mr. M,” correspondence sent to the school, the creation of the Bluebird account, and the check deposit.
PCSO detectives worked with Warner University employees to retrieve emails and documents related to the scheme to defraud. The Chief Financial Officer explained to detectives that the school had to repay the $3,454 back to the loan company, due to the fact that the loan company issues the funds to the school, and the school provides the student with a check.
“Warner University does a great job helping people access higher education opportunities. The fact that a former employee with insider knowledge took advantage of the system to steal money is awful. We appreciate the cooperation of Warner’s staff with this student loan fraud investigation – we are going to hold these two accountable.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff
Pilgram was taken into custody at her home, and detectives filed add-on charges against Montgomery, who has been in the Polk County Jail since August 2019 for failure to register as a sex offender, and VOP (he was released from state prison in January 2019). Pilgram bonded out of jail after posting $2,000 bond.
Montgomery, AKA John Murray with the same DOB of 09/16/66, is a registered sexual offender from a 1994 conviction for sexual battery. His criminal history includes 31 felonies, 17 misdemeanors, 8 trips to state prison, and the following previous arrests:
1985 – theft, resisting arrest, burglary, grand theft, theft of utilities, dealing in stolen property, disorderly conduct
1986 – aggravated battery on a LEO, grand theft, resisting arrest, dealing in stolen property, larceny, failure to appear
1987 – aggravated assault on a LEO, smuggling into detention center, resisting arrest, failure to appear, VOP
1990 – marijuana possession
1991 – armed robbery, sexual assault, aggravated battery
1992 – sexual battery, marijuana possession, resisting arrest
1993 – VOP
1994 – aggravated assault, aggravated battery, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, grand theft
1999 – VOP
2001 – sexual battery
2005 – VOP
2007 – VOP
2008 – failure to register as a sex offender
2009 – grand theft of motor vehicle, petit theft
2010 – battery
2011 – grand theft of motor vehicle, burglary, failure to register as sex offender, marijuana possession
2016 – VOP
2017 – failure to register as sex offender, VOP
2019 – failure to register as sex offender, VOP
*At the time of the crimes, Pilgram was not married, and went by her maiden name Margaret Jackson, AKA “Peggy Jackson.” She has since gotten married, and lives in Bartow.