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Press Release

United States Obtains Judgment for Fraudulent Veterans Assistance Claims Against Moss Point Barber School and Owner in the Amount of $916,392

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Mississippi

Gulfport, Miss. - Todd Gee, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, announced today that the United States obtained a civil judgment in the amount of $916,392 in connection with fraudulent veterans assistance claims made by barber school and salon owner April Tucker Beard; Beard’s salon and barber school, April’s Mane Attraction, Inc. (AMA); and April’s Mane Attraction, Inc., Academy (AMA/Academy).  

On October 5, 2023, the United States filed a civil complaint against these defendants pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA) seeking treble damages and penalties and alleging that Beard and her school knowingly defrauded the United States Department of Veterans Affairs’ Post-9/11 GI Bill education assistance program.  The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides educational assistance benefits for eligible veterans and members of the armed services who enroll in qualified education or training programs.  The VA pays benefits for tuition and fees directly to qualifying schools and provides qualifying veteran students a monthly housing allowance and stipend for books and supplies.  These benefits are part of the United States’ promise to support veterans after honorably serving our country.

In its complaint, the United States alleged that Beard and AMA/Academy falsely certified that they provided 1500 hours of formal class instruction to its students when they did not do so; and further, that they charged comparable tuition for VA and non-VA students.  Instead, Beard and her school charged grossly inflated and disproportionate tuition and fees for VA students in the amount of $22,400 as compared to $2,400 ($50/week) for non-VA students.  According to the United States, Beard did not regularly conduct classes or otherwise provide instruction and most of the veteran students for whom AMA/Academy received Post-9/11 GI benefits did not receive certificates of completion and did not test with the Mississippi State Board of Barber Examiners to fulfill licensing requirements in Mississippi.  The United States alleged that Beard did not maintain accurate attendance records and payment ledgers as a means to conceal her failure to adhere to program requirements.

As a result of Beard’s false certifications, the United States claimed Beard fraudulently received $235,734 in tuition payments for barber instructor and/or training services she did not provide to veterans.  Under the FCA, the United States is entitled to an award of three times the government’s loss plus penalties for each claim filed. On April 19, 2024, United States District Judge Halil Suleyman Ozerden entered judgment against Beard, AMA, and AMA/Academy for $916,392.

“The Post-9/11 GI Bill is an important part of our promise to aid our military veterans and their families for honorably serving our country,” said Todd Gee, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi. “This type of fraud drains funds from vital veterans’ programs and this office remains committed to holding offenders who abuse and exploit these programs accountable.”

“Safeguarding Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefit funds reserved for deserving veterans remains a priority, and this judgment is a testament to our commitment to holding accountable those who would defraud VA’s benefit programs,” said Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Kris Raper of the South Central Field Office. “The VA OIG thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case.” 

This investigation was the result of a dedicated and coordinated effort from the VA OIG, the Veterans Benefits Administration, Education Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, SDMS.  Assistant United States Attorney Deidre Colson investigated and litigated this matter.

Updated May 2, 2024

False Claims Act