The owner of a physical security school pleaded guilty today to defrauding a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program dedicated to rehabilitating military veterans with disabilities.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu for the District of Columbia, Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and Special Agent in Charge Kim Lampkins of the VA Office of Inspector General (OIG), Mid-Atlantic Field Office made the announcement.
Francis Engles, 63, of Bowie, Maryland, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The plea was entered before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates of the District of Columbia. Sentencing has been scheduled for April 2, 2020.
According to admissions made in connection with Engles’s guilty plea, Engles was the owner and operator of Engles Security Training School (Engles Security). In August 2015, Engles Security became an approved vendor of the VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment (VR&E) program, which provides disabled U.S. military veterans with services. Thereafter, Engles Security obtained over 80 percent of its total revenue from the VA in exchange for purporting to provide certain courses to disabled military veterans.
To further the scheme, Engles falsely represented to the VA that he was providing veterans with months-long courses for 40 hours per week and over 600 total hours. In fact, Engles Security offered veterans far less than what Engles represented to the VA. In some instances, he offered only a few hours of class per day for several weeks. Some veterans did not attend more than one day of class. Engles nevertheless sent to the VA “Certificates of Training” stating that veterans had completed courses that they had not completed or, in some instances, had not taken at all. Similarly, Engles submitted letters to the VA falsely stating that the veterans were employed by Engles’s private security business. Engles also instructed veterans to sign attendance sheets for classes that they did not in fact attend. In total, Engles obtained $337,960 from the VA for the purported education of veterans.
Engles also attempted to obstruct the investigation into his fraud. During an interview with federal agents, Engles lied about veteran students’ attendance at the school, among other things. Later, when Engles Security was served with a grand jury subpoena, Engles prevented his employee from producing responsive documents that she had gathered. Some of these documents were later discovered in the government’s search of Engles Security’s office.
In February 2019, four other individuals were sentenced in related cases following their guilty pleas. James King, a former VA employee, was sentenced to serve 11 years in prison for committing bribery, defrauding the VA, and obstructing justice. Albert Poawui, the owner of Atius Technology Institute, was sentenced to serve 84 months in prison for committing bribery. Sombo Kanneh, Poawui’s employee, was sentenced to serve 20 months in prison for conspiracy to commit bribery. Michelle Stevens, the owner of Eelon Training School, was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison for committing bribery.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office and the VA Office of Inspector General are investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Simon J. Cataldo and Victor R. Salgado of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Lallas of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.