Voc Rehab Counselor Bribe

DOJ: Voc Rehab Counselor Guilty, Took Bribes From For-Profit Schools

A former Voc Rehab Counselor pled guilty this week to demanding and receiving bribes to steer veterans to certain for-profit schools for vocational training.

Former counselor James King, 63, arranged payments to the institutions in question totaling over $2 million in taxpayer monies. He pled guilty to an Information alleging one count of honest services and money/property wire fraud, one count of bribery, and one count of falsifying records to obstruct an administrative investigation.

King is the fourth person to plead guilty in connection to the criminal fraud scheme. In April, Albert Poawui and Sombo Kanneh pleaded guilty to bribing and conspiring to bribe King, respectively. In July, Michelle Stevens pleaded guilty to bribing King.

“For years, James King and his criminal associates defrauded an important VA program that provides education services to military veterans who served our country,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski.  “The Justice Department is committed to prosecuting those who seek to illegally enrich themselves at the expense of programs intended to help our brave servicemembers.”

“James King took advantage of his position with the VA by participating in a scam that took money from programs meant to help our disabled military veterans find jobs and enhance their education,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “This investigation shows that we will do everything we can to ensure that taxpayer money intended for our veterans is put to its proper use, not siphoned off by the people and organizations who are entrusted with helping them.”

“King tried to use his position to enrich himself at the expense of veterans who have honorably served our country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge DeSarno. “This guilty plea makes it perfectly clear that such activity by anyone affiliated with the U.S. government will not be tolerated. The FBI will work closely with our partners to continue to aggressively investigate allegations of corruption.”


“King’s plea is a win for VA and our veterans,” said Special Agent in Charge Lampkins of the VA-OIG Mid-Atlantic Field Office.  “It sends a clear message that VA OIG is dedicated to prosecuting those that take advantage of VA programs that are intended to help our veterans and their families.”

The scheme worked as follows according to DOJ, in italics:

According to King’s admissions made in connection with his plea, the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) provides disabled U.S. military veterans with education and employment-related services.  VR&E program counselors advise veterans under their supervision which schools to attend and facilitate payments to those schools for veterans’ tuition and necessary supplies.           

From 2015 through 2017, King, using his position as a VR&E program counselor, demanded and received cash bribes from the owners of Atius Technology Institute (Atius), Eelon Training Academy (Eelon), and a school identified in documents as “School A,” a school purporting to specialize in physical security classes.  King facilitated over $2 million in payments to Atius, over $83,000 to Eelon, and over $340,000 to “School A,” all in furtherance of King’s separate agreements with the respective school owners to commit bribery and defraud the VA.  King agreed with Poawui and Stevens that they would each pay him, in cash, seven percent of the money they received from the VA in exchange for King steering veterans to their schools and facilitating VA payments.  King similarly accepted cash payments from the owner of School A, who is identified as Person A in the Information, in exchange for the same official acts.

In order to maximize the profits from their fraud, all three school owners sent King and other VA officials false information about the education being provided to veterans, and King facilitated payments to all three schools knowing this information was false.  King also admitted to repeatedly lying to veterans under his supervision in order to convince them to attend Atius, Eelon, or School A.  For example, King falsely instructed one veteran that, unless he attended School A, his VR&E program benefits would “lapse.”  King insisted that this veteran enroll in School A despite the veteran’s protests that he could not engage in physical security work due to a physical disability, and despite the fact that the veteran had enrolled in the VR&E program to pursue his dream of becoming a baker.

In early 2017, the VA initiated a fact-finding inquiry into Atius based on complaints by students as to the quality of education at the school.  In August 2017, after King became aware of the inquiry, he created a falsified site visit report and instructed Poawui to send it to another VA official, all in an effort to obstruct the VA’s inquiry into Atius.  In January 2018, after Poawui had begun to cooperate with the government in its investigation, King attempted to convince Poawui to lie to the grand jury about the purpose of the bribe payments.

King’s plea is the result of an ongoing investigation by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the VA Office of Inspector General.  Trial Attorney Simon J. Cataldo of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, former Assistant U.S. Attorney and current Fraud Section Trial Attorney Sonali D. Patel, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Misler of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.  Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Adrienne Dedjinou and Paralegal Josh Fein of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia also assisted with the investigation.

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  1. Ben, I’m sure you realize how many Vets are in a major crisis with VA. Their basically helpless.

    Since you’re busy, and no offense, I believe that as a Vet Advocating Attorney, that you’re creed obligated to.post what.other colleagues can assist us, and in what field of study of VA.

    It’d be e a good daily article too.

  2. “In early 2017, the VA initiated a fact-finding inquiry into Atius based on complaints by students as to the quality of education at the school.”(No doubt financial complaints too)- But earlier in the article it says – “For years, James King and his criminal associates defrauded an important VA program that provides education services to military veterans who served our country,”- So obviously there were multiple complaints for years abut this problem. Kind of sounds like the VA went into “Lets sweep this under the rug so we don’t get another black eye protocol” before the FBI had to get involved Seems even with crime in the VA there is a waiting list for justice to occur…..

  3. all they need to do is quite dianl them benefitd we got poor people out her i am one of them i try to email you my case have you got my email do you can help me out

  4. OGM – Luv It!!! These last couple of postings have been juicy with all the corrupt individuals being caugt and prosecuted. Keep up the good work. BAM


  5. I’m so not surprised by this. There will be more firings. The Dallas VA is just as currupt especially Human Resources

  6. Old news here !!! I’m one of those veterans that got fuck over by James fuckturd King and Ben never returned my email request for info or help.
    VA OIG is a damn joke and the FBI was too busy trying playing grab-ass with the VA to take my testimony.
    There is a battle coming to the America government and there is way that same right to a man,but in the end is the way of death.

  7. I suspect that bribery is a problem in Denver/Cheyenne also. Probably affects Choice and Community Based Contract Clinics including those that provide C & P examinations. Probably the reason I haven’t gotten that C & P exam because Denver will only approve their Golden Colorado contract clinic for it claiming it is the only resource available with the proper “VA training”. Because of the distance from me a protocol TBI exam cannot be done in Golden even if they were offering to do a full protocol exam which they are not.
    So VA training means “trained to not report factually and minimize disabilities.” Lobbyists for the military industrial complex probably involved. Competition for budget dollars. Hard ware priorities. To hell with human needs. I can hear the lobbyist’s argument. If we have the hardware you’ll have fewer human needs as though the United States can’t do both.

  8. The VA in no time will make James King in charge of all Veteran G.I. Bill affairs after he has the AFGE go to bat for him and they somehow blame this all on we Vets, reassign the asshole in the VA’s Whack-A-Mole (WHAM) program, damage to Vets continues on same board game, same game piece, different zip code…likely Arizona, land of the asshole Flakes.

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