WASHINGTON (CN) – The founder of a vocational training program for disabled veterans pleaded guilty Monday to bribing a Department of Veterans Affairs official as part of a scheme to defraud the federal government.
According to prosecutors, Albert Poawui founded Atius Technology Institute in March 2017 and established two campuses for the school, one in Beltsville, Maryland, and the other in Springfield, Virginia.
They charged that beginning in August 2015, Poawui began bribing a public official overseeing rehabilitation and counseling services for disabled veterans to direct prospective clients to Atius, and to approve the program’s submitted paperwork, regardless of its accuracy.
The unnamed official, was a counselor for the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program. In that role, the official advised veterans on which schools to attend and processed payments to those schools for the veterans’ tuition and supplies.
Over the life of the scheme, the government said, Poawui defrauded the Department of Veterans Affairs out of $2.2 million, paying the official a total $155,000 in cash.
On Monday, Poawui, of Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Bates to one count of bribing a public official.
He also admitted to making numerous false statements to the Department of Veterans Affairs to bolster the scheme’s profits, doing so in concert with a second Atius employee.
Together, Poawui said, he and the employee certified veterans attending Atius were enrolled in up to 32 hours of class per week, when it fact they both knew Atius offered a maximum of six weekly class hours.
Prosecutors said once the VA began an administrative audit of Atius, Poawui and his co-conspirators attempted to cover up their misdeeds.
Judge Bates did not set a date for Poawui’s sentencing.