‘Career school’ in Killeen ordered to pay $9M for defrauding GI Bill program

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Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 8:35 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - The ELPSS Career Institute LLC, a “career school” in Killeen, and its director, Ricky J. Daniels, Jr., this week were ordered to pay a little more than $9-million in damages and civil penalties to the United States for defrauding a post-9/11 G.I. Bill program.

A federal court in Waco handed down the punishment under the False Claims Act, which allows the government to recover three times the amount of funds fraudulently obtained plus a civil penalty for each false claim.

The program abused by the school was meant to provide financial support to members of the military, veterans, and eligible dependents who enrolled in certain education programs.

Federal prosecutors said a non-accredited career school like ELPSS Career Institute must operate for at least two years before it may enroll students receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The United States filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas alleging Daniels had falsely certified to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC) that ELPSS Career Institute had been in operation for more than two years in order to obtain approval to enroll Post-9/11 GI Bill students.

Daniels formed ELPSS Career Institute less than a year before applying for approval, prosecutors said, further alleging Daniels provided student files from an unaffiliated school in El Paso to the TVC when it conducted a site visit to verify the school’s dates of operation.

As soon as the government identified the fraud, it moved for summary judgment under the False Claims Act.

A magistrate judge concluded that undisputed evidence proved Daniels knowingly made a false certification regarding ELPSS Career Institute’s compliance with the two-year requirement; that the false certification was material to the VA’s decision to allow ELPSS Career Institute to receive tuition reimbursement for veterans receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits; and that the false certification caused the VA to disburse more than $2.3 million to the school.

U.S. District Judge Alan D. Judge Albright adopted the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, granting the government’s motion and awarding it $9,024,886.99.

“Fraud on the Post-9/11 GI Bill threatens the integrity of education benefits provided to military veterans and their families,” said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. “This office is committed to holding accountable anyone who undermines the critical benefit programs that assist those who serve our country.”