Two women will likely go to jail for their elaborate illegal “bait and switch” scam – one that fooled thousands of United States military veterans into believing they were using $24 million of their Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition to pay for courses at the small Catholic College in New Jersey, Caldwell University.
It turned out, however, that the veterans were actually enrolled in low-cost correspondence courses that were marketed by a company in Pennsylvania – classes that the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill did not even cover.
Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced that both of the main culprits in the scam worked for the institutions in question.
“Lisa DiBisceglie, 56, of Lavallette, New Jersey, the former Associate Dean of the Office of External Partnerships at Caldwell University, and Helen Sechrist, 61, of Sandy Level, Virginia, a former employee of the Pennsylvania-based company Ed4Mil LLC, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden in Newark federal court to separate informations charging them each with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud,” a press release issued by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey reads.
No slap on the wrist
The fraudulent activity took place over several years – and could land both of them decades of prison time and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
“The pair defrauded the government of $24 million between 2009 and 2013, federal prosecutors said,” Fox News reported. “They could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when they are sentenced Jan. 24, 2018.”
In addition, it has been demanded that the tens of millions of dollars of which they scammed veterans out of is expected to be returned.
“The women have also been ordered to repay the $24 million, although authorities were uncertain how much money would ultimately be recovered,” the report from Fox News added. “It was unclear Tuesday whether the women had benefitted personally from the scam.”
Fitzpatrick announced that both women blatantly stole money from the veterans in the well-thought-out, intricately carried-out scam.
“DiBisceglie and Sechrist were part of an elaborate bait-and-switch scheme that stole millions of dollars in Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition assistance,” his news release stated. “Instead of receiving a quality education under the Caldwell brand, the veterans that were recruited by Ed4Mil were enrolled in unapproved online courses without their knowledge, all while members of the conspiracy profited from their hard-earned benefits. Prosecuting fraud against the government is always a top concern of our office, especially when the conduct shamelessly exploits our servicemen and women for financial gain.”
Ultimate slap in the face to our vets
Donna L. Neves, who serves as special agent in charge at the Northeast Field Office for the U.S. Department of Veterans, Office of Inspector General, insisted that the fraudulent scheme inexcusably took advantage of self-sacrificing veterans and stole from taxpayer funds.
“The VA’s Post-9/11 GI Bill is a comprehensive educational program meant to help our nation’s veterans advance their education and careers as they move from military service to civilian life,” Neves explained in the release. “Defrauding this important VA program costs our nation’s taxpayers and VA and does a tremendous disservice to our veterans. VA OIG is committed to working closely with our fellow law enforcement partners and thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Jersey for their dedication to this time-intensive, complex case.”
The two women were not the only ones involved in the shameful exploitation of military veterans and taxpayer funds.
“Ed4Mil Founder and President David Alvey and others [also] took part in the conspiracy to fraudulently obtain the $24 million from the U.S. government using the Post-9/11 GI Bill as vehicle for their scheme,” Lifezette.com reported.
Debbi Mayer – who serves as assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Northeastern Regional Office – was appalled by the exploitive conspiracy.
“Scams like this steal money from hardworking taxpayers and legitimate students – and in this case, our veterans – and that is completely unacceptable,” Mayer asserted in the release. “I’m proud of the work of the OIG special agents and our law enforcement partners for holding Ms. DiBisceglie and Ms. Sechrist accountable for their criminal actions.”
The special agent in charge of the Newark FBI Field Office, Timothy Gallagher insisted that the stiff penalties slated to be given out will work to make sure such despicable behavior will not be attempted in the future.
“The guilty pleas by DiBisceglie and Sechrist send a clear and unequivocal message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will relentlessly pursue fraud against the government,” Gallagher asserted in Fitzpatrick’s statement. “These crimes are especially egregious since they target our veterans and the educational system.”