Man pleads guilty to bribery con involving VA program for disabled veterans

Matt Saintsing
April 16, 2018 - 3:39 pm

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The owner of a fraudulent IT school pleaded guilty Monday, to bribing a VA official in exchange for funneling more than $2.2 million from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Justice Department said.

Albert S. Poawui, 41, of Laurel, Md., pleaded guilty to one count of bribing a public official, the Justice Department said in a statement. He was the owner of the non-accredited Atius Technology Institute, a vocational school that provided services to disabled veterans.

A vocational counselor at VA agreed in 2015 that Poawui would pay a 7 percent cash kickback for VA payments made to Atius, for the purpose of training disabled veterans, federal authorities said.

Atius received more than $2.2 million from VA between 2015 and 2017 for fraudulent invoices that claimed veterans attended 32 hours of classes each week, when in reality, the program offered just six hours weekly.

The scam was quite profitable for some, as one VA counselor received more than $155,000 for taking part in the illegal arrangement. Sensing something was off, the VA began an audit of the VA officials who interacted with Atius and Poawui, and found that steps were taken to cover up the scheme.

Prosecutors said the kickback was made to a program counselor with the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitaiton and Employment program, which helps disabled vets with education and other employment-services.

Poawui’s plea is the result of an ongoing investigation and federal officials declined to identify the other conspirators in the fraudulent swindle.

The VA did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the case.