On Monday, April 16, 2018, it was announced that the owner of Atius Technology Institute pleaded guilty to bribing a public official at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs in exchange for the official’s facilitation of over $2 million in payments, which were supposed to be dedicated to helping military veterans with service-related disabilities obtain vocational training. The privately owned, non-accredited school offered information technology courses.
41-year-old Albert S. Poawui of Laurel, Maryland pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with one count of bribing a public official. According to admissions made in connection to the guilty plea, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program is a VA program that provides disabled veterans with education and employment-related services.
Program counselors help veterans choose schools to attend and facilitate payments to those schools. In or about August 2015, the defendant and a VR&E program counselor agreed that the defendant would pay the counselor a seven percent cash kickback for all payments made by the VA to Atius. In return, the counselor agreed to steer VR&E program veterans to Atius and to approve Atius’s invoice for payment.
The defendant admitted that the counselor and another VR&E counselor approved payments to Atius without regard for the accuracy of documentation. Between August of 2015 and December of 2017, the defendant and others cause the VA to pay Atius roughly $2,217,259.44. Poawui paid one counselor more than $155,000. The money was delivered by hand by Poawui or another Atius employee.
Additional details have been made available here.