AUSTIN (CN) - A job training company defrauded the Pentagon and fired an admissions adviser for truthfully reporting that it charged military spouses much higher tuition than other students, the adviser claims in court.
Imelda Cantu sued 360Training.com, of Austin, in Travis County Court.
Cantu claims that many of 360Training's students have their tuition covered by federally funded Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA).
Cantu claims she was protected by the False Claims Act when she reported the abuse to an employee of Military OneSource, a Pentagon program that supports armed services members and their families.
"During the conversation, Ms. Cantu told Ms. [Tonya] McGill that she believed that 360Training was defrauding the Department of Defense by charging MyCAA students more than non-MyCAA students for the same courses, and by requiring MyCAA students to purchase courses in bundles, which artificially increased the prices," the complaint states.
McGill is not a party to the complaint. The only defendant is 360Training.com, Inc.
Cantu claims on Dec. 5, 2012, two days after she talked with McGill, she was called into a meeting with 360Training's in-house attorney Anna Bradford and senior vice-president of business operations Clyde Seepersad.
"Ms. Cantu was shown a copy of the e-mail chain between her and Ms. McGill," the complaint states. "Mr. Seepersad then accused Ms. Cantu of 'trying to undermine our position to the DOD' and of 'actively trying to sabotage this company.' Ms. Cantu was criticized during the meeting for not going to HR, legal or her department head about the DOD contract and for speaking directly to Ms. McGill about it instead."
Cantu says that even after she explained that 360Training was in breach of contract, was defrauding the federal government, and that she could not refuse to provide information to a federal investigator, her bosses accused her of not being "protective of our position" and of trying to "get us in trouble with the Department of Defense."
She was fired that very day, Cantu says.
She says she was fired even though 360Training knew she was engaging in protected activity.
360Training provides online classes for financial services, information technology, healthcare education, environmental health and safety and cosmetology education, according to its website.
It also partners with other providers of online classes, including real estate training and pre-licensing programs offered by Lamar Institute of Technology, according to the complaint.
Cantu seeks reinstatement, back pay and special damages for violations of the False Claims Act.
She is represented by Kell Simon with Terry Simon in Austin.