22 December 2022. A for-profit company operating information technology (IT) schools across the country has been accused of defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) out of millions of dollars by submitting false claims for government tuition reimbursements intended to help veterans pursue educational goals. According to a suit filed in Michigan federal court by the U.S. Department of Justice, the operator, New Horizon Computer Learning Centers (NHLS) had engaged in a systematic practice of cheating the VA by requesting inflating reimbursements and thereby wasting government funds meant to benefit those who serve their country. This alleged fraud perpetuates a culture of deception and could harm many current and future student-veterans seeking to use their hard-earned benefits within the IT industry.
The lawsuit alleges that NHLS had perpetuated a scheme to inflate invoices and submit false or inaccurate information in order to receive higher tuition reimbursements from the VA. The fraud was allegedly committed between April 2014 and August 2017, when the government suspended payments to the IT school pending an investigation. Under the “Last Payer Rule” of the GI Bill, the VA pays last, after any applicable grants or scholarships, with the amount dependent upon a veteran’s years of service. The contractor allegedly did the reverse, applying for reimbursement from the VA for veteran students’ full tuition amount first and then applying any other tuition assistance to a student’s account. Furthermore, NHLS allegedly signed off that they complied with the GI Bill provisions when they were knowingly violating the rules.
The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking restitution for all funds procured by fraudulent means as well as civil monetary penalties against the contractors for their alleged involvement in this deceptive practice that harmed veterans’ educational opportunities. The Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General said about the case, “Today’s complaint demonstrates our commitment to hold accountable companies that improperly seek to profit from this promise and the women and men who have served our country.”
The DOJ is committed to prosecuting those who seek to defraud the VA and our nation’s heroes. There was no whistleblower in this case, but whistleblowers who report false claims submitted for reimbursement under the GI Bill may be entitled to a 15-25% share of the government’s recovery.
If you would like to report government contractor fraud or other government programs fraud, you can contact attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei LLP. Eva Gunasekera and Renée Brooker are former officials of the United States Department of Justice and prosecuted whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act. Renée served as Assistant Director at the United States Department of Justice, the office that supervises False Claims Act cases in all 94 United States District Courts. Eva was the Senior Counsel for Health Care Fraud. Eva and Renée now represent whistleblowers. For a free consultation, you can contact Renée at [email protected] (tel.: 202-417-3664) or contact Eva Gunasekera at [email protected]. You can also go to Tycko & Zavareei LLP’s website for whistleblowers to learn more at https://www.fraudfighters.net/.