Owner of Welding School Sentenced for $1.4 Million GI Bill Fraud
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – The owner of a sham welding school in Newport News was sentenced today to 40 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) of $1.4 million and filing false tax returns.
According to court documents, Dr. Wilbert J. McNair, Jr., 54, of Chesapeake, was an owner of the Hampton Roads Skills Center (HRSC), located in Newport News. The HRSC purported to be a welding training facility that was approved by the VA to provide education and training to military veterans, including veterans who received tuition assistance under the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other VA educational assistance programs. The HRSC also contracted with two other federally-funded agencies to provide welding training to students receiving tuition assistance from those entities. McNair represented that HRSC provided full-time schooling to nearly 100 veteran students beginning in March 2013. Most veterans enrolled in HRSC received few, if any, hours of instruction, and the majority of students did not take a final exam or attend lecture or practical, hands-on coursework. Indeed, most students were not even physically present at HRSC during the hours their courses were purportedly held, and some students never once entered the building during any point during the period of their enrollment. Nonetheless, McNair reported to the VA that the veteran students were enrolled in and attending the school, such that HRSC received tuition payments for each veteran from the VA. Based on McNair’s provision of false information to the VA, HRSC received over $1.4 million in VA tuition payments between March 2013 and June 2017.
Tracy Doherty-McCormick, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Michael J. Missal, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General; Kim Lampkins, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent in Charge, Mid Atlantic Field Office; and Kimberly Lappin, Special Agent in Charge, Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis. Assistant U.S. Attorneys V. Kathleen Dougherty and Kaitlin C. Gratton are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information is located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:17-cr-107.