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Ex-VA official who misused $2M and accepted bribes to be sentenced this week

Department of Justice. (Scott "Skippy"/Flickr)
February 14, 2019

A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official will be sentenced Friday after he pleaded guilty last October to 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, according to a Justice Department release at the time.

James King, 63, was accused of enrolling disabled military veterans in three different for-profit schools and using bribes to direct over $2 million of the VA’s veterans’ federal benefits to the schools. He will be sentenced Friday, a month later than the original sentencing date, The Military Times reported.

Veterans had filed numerous complaints against both schools for offering a poor-quality education and for being deceived about the programs and the cost. King was aware of these complaints but proceeded with sending disabled veterans to them.

King is the fourth individual to plead guilty as part of this investigation.

Albert Poawui and Sombo Kanneh pleaded guilty to bribing and conspiring to bribe King in April.  In July, Michelle Stevens pleaded guilty to bribing King, the Justice Dept. said.

Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski said, “For years, James King and his criminal associates defrauded an important VA program that provides education services to military veterans who served our country. 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.”

U.S. Attorney Liu said, “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. 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.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge DeSarno said, “King tried to use his position to enrich himself at the expense of veterans who have honorably served our country. 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.”

Kim Lampkins, Special Agent in Charge of the VA-OIG Mid-Atlantic Field Office said, “King’s plea is a win for VA and our veterans. 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.”

King pleaded guilty to facilitating more than $2 million in payments to Atius, over $83,000 to Eelon, and over $340,000 to School A for two years, starting in 2015, the Justice Dept. said.

The three schools falsified documents that were sent to VA and King about the veterans who were enrolled.