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Press Release

For-Profit Virginia School Settles False Claims Act Allegations Involving Military Veteran’s Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Pinellas Corporation (Pinellas), a for-profit school offering computer training courses in McLean and Richmond, and CEO and sole owner Paul Giordano, of Washington, D.C., agreed to pay $450,000 to settle allegations that Pinellas paid bonuses to consultants based on their success in securing enrollments of students receiving military veterans benefits.

Under the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008 (Post-9/11 GI Bill), military veterans can receive tuition assistance from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enroll as students at approved educational institutions. Their tuition assistance is paid directly to the educational institution. During the relevant period, education institutions could not be approved to enroll students receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits “if the educational institution provides any commission, bonus, or other incentive payment based directly or indirectly on success in securing enrollments or financial aid to any persons or entities engaged in any student recruiting or admission activities or in making decisions regarding the award of student financial assistance.”

The United States alleged that from 2015 through 2016, Pinellas d/b/a New Horizons Computer Learning Center of Richmond Virginia, and New Horizons Computer Learning Center Of Washington, D.C., at Giordano’s direction, paid bonuses to consultants who recruited students receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill financial assistance based on their success in securing enrollments. The United States further alleged that, between August 15, 2015, and December 31, 2016, Pinellas falsely certified that it had exercised reasonable diligence in meeting all applicable requirements of Title 38 of the U.S. Code in submitting nearly 1,000 claims to the VA for Post-9/11 GI Bill payments.

The government alleged that because of the false certifications Pinellas made to the VA, the VA paid tuition payments to Pinellas that Pinellas was not eligible to receive, in violation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and the False Claims Act.   

The resolution obtained in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, and VA’s Veterans Benefits Administration.

The matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Starr and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Krista Anderson. The civil claims settled by this False Claims Act agreement are allegations only; there has been no determination of civil liability.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Updated February 13, 2023