Suffolk Man Pleads Guilty to GI Bill Fraud Conspiracy
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – A Suffolk man pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Post-9/11 GI Bill educational assistance program.
According to court documents, Kent Chillous, 55, is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who attended the Hampton Roads Skills Center (HRSC) utilizing Post-9/11 GI Bill funds. HRSC purported to be a welding training school offering vocational skills to its students, many of whom were veteran students whose tuition was funded by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Rather than actually provide an education to students, however, HRSC did not provide regular instruction for any of their course offerings, either in a classroom lecture setting or a practical, hands-on setting. Moreover, the majority of students were not even physically present at HRSC during most of the hours their courses were purportedly held. Indeed, some students never once entered the HRSC building at any point during their period of enrollment.
According to court documents, Chillous was enrolled as an HRSC student between June 2016 and July 2017, during which time he did not receive welding instruction and was rarely, if ever, physically present at the school. Nonetheless, on the basis of his enrollment, the VA paid him a regular housing stipend and paid HRSC for Chillous’ tuition. Additionally, a few months after his enrollment at the school, Chillous and the school’s owner struck a deal for Chillous to recruit veterans to enroll in HRSC, to boost the GI Bill revenue coming into the school. Chillous was paid a recruitment fee of approximately 8% of the tuition HRSC would receive from the VA on behalf of each veteran he successfully enrolled. Over the next 10 months, Kent successfully recruited approximately 20 Post-9/11 GI Bill-eligible veterans to enroll at HRSC.
Chillous pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced on January 11, 2018. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Dana J. Boente, 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 U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis accepted the plea. 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-81.