NJ computer school stole millions from veterans program
MARLBORO — The owner of a Monmouth County computer school faces jail time and hefty fines after admitting to stealing funds intended to help military veterans re-enter the workforce.
Township resident Elizabeth Honig, 52, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds after fraudulently helping more than 100 veterans register for the program at her Computer Insight Learning Center. While a total of 182 veterans enrolled, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said the "vast majority were either not eligible or not actually attending the training."
In total, Honig was accused of stealing $2.8 million.
The program was intended to help military veterans, including those under the Veteran's Retraining Assistance Program, and offered the benefit for up to a year for out of work veterans between the ages of 35 and 60, according to Fitzpatrick.
As part of pleading guilty, Honig admitted to logging into the system for the program more than 100 times as the veterans, including supplying false employment status information to help the veterans register for her school, allowing her to get the funding from the Veterans Administration. She would then confirm to the VA that the veterans had enrolled in a "Business Software Application Program," which was approved by the VA as a 14-week class costing close to $4,000 for up to a year.
Honig also admitted to telling the VA that all the students were attending the class full time in person at her Eatontown school despite 62 living out of state. Fitzpatrick said the school was not eligible to offer online education.
In addition to the out of state discrepancy, Honig admitted to allowing the students that did attend to do so for less than the required hours, stop going if they started the training, or not take part in the program at all.
She also admitted to not reporting absences to the VA, which required notification after 30 days of not attending the class. In exchange for not reporting the absences, the veterans would pay Honig a monthly fee, according to Fitzpatrick. That fee, which was usually around $750, also meant veterans were paying Honig more than double the tuition cost for the class.
Fitzpatrick said the charge Honig pleaded guilty to carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of either $250,000, twice the gross amount she made from the crime, or twice the loss suffered by any victim, whichever is more. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 25.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com