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Press Release

Two Plead Guilty to Making False Statements to Government Investigators

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Hampshire

CONCORD – An Amherst man and a Bedford woman pleaded guilty in federal court to charges arising out of their making false statements to the Veterans Administration (VA) during its investigation into StoneMakers Academy, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces.

David Montoya, 64, and Rhonda Simpson, 55, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements to a government agency.  U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro scheduled sentencing for Simpson on September 11, 2024 and for Montoya on September 24, 2024.

Montoya was the owner and president of StoneMakers Corporation, while Simpson served as its registered agent, vice president, and in-house counsel.  From its inception, a portion of StoneMakers Corporation’s business involved marketing and selling training in its concrete landscape methods under the name StoneMakers Academy.  StoneMakers Academy was enrolled with the VA such that the VA would pay tuition and fee payments for eligible veterans under the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  A school is ordinarily eligible to receive tuition payments for veteran students in a particular course only if the students receiving benefits total no more than 85% of the total amount of students who are enrolled in that course.  That is, a school is not eligible to receive tuition payments unless at least 15% of the students who are enrolled in the course are non-veterans who are not receiving discounts to their tuition.  This is commonly known as the “85-15 Rule.”  In addition, a school may not charge more for veterans to attend a course than it charges civilians to attend the same course.  Any school that violates “the same tuition rule” is subject to suspension or dismissal from the program.

In or about January 2018, the VA Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG) commenced an investigation into StoneMakers Academy’s receipt of VA tuition assistance funds for the purpose of providing education and training to eligible veterans.  The defendants took steps to conceal StoneMakers Academy’s past violations of the 85/15 Rule and same tuition rule from the VA-OIG, including through the creation of false and misleading documents to conceal the fact that past educational programs offered by StoneMakers Academy had been in violation of the 85-15 Rule. 

The charging statute provides a sentence of no greater than 5 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.

The VA-OIG led the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles L. Rombeau and Raphael Katz are prosecuting the case.  



Updated May 30, 2024