A Monmouth County woman who owned a computer training center in Eatontown admitted stealing $2.8 million from a program designed to help veterans find employment, Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Elizabeth Honig, 52, of Morganville, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan in Trenton federal court on June 21 to an information charging her with one count of theft of government funds
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Honig owns Computer Insight Learning Center (CILC), a computer training school.
She helped 182 veterans enroll to receive federal funding under a program – funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Labor – designed to help older, unemployed veterans receive training and find employment in high demand occupations.
The vast majority of these veterans were either not eligible or not actually attending the training.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Honig’s program was approved by the VA to provide education and training to military veterans, including veterans who received tuition assistance under the Veteran’s Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP), which offered up to 12 months of benefits for older, unemployed veterans between the ages of 35 and 60. This program provided training assistance to unemployed veterans for programs designed to lead to a high-demand occupation.
Honig admitted she logged on to the applications system more than 100 times and certified that she was the actual veteran who was applying for benefits. She supplied false information about employment status to qualify to attend her school and receive funding from the VA. Honig then certified to the VA that the veterans enrolled in her Business Software Applications Program – approved by the VA as a 14-week course costing approximately $4,000 – were attending for up to one year. Honig also certified that the veterans were attending full-time, in-class, knowing that 62 of those veterans lived out of the state. CILC is not eligible to be approved to provide online education.
The documents say Honig allowed veterans to attend less than the required hours, to stop attending prior to completion, or, in many cases, never attend at all. Honig failed to report the non-attendance to VA, which is required by law after 30 days of non-attendance, as long as the veterans continued to pay her a monthly fee. This caused the VA to continue payments to veterans who were not entitled to the funds.
Honig’s monthly fee of approximately $750 also resulted in overpayments by veterans far in excess of the VA approved $4,000 course tuition.
The count to which Honig pleaded guilty carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison and a fine of either $250,000, twice the gross amount of her gain from the crime, or twice the loss suffered by any victims, whichever is greatest. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
Acting U.S. Attorney Fitzpatrick credited the Northeast Field Office, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Donna L. Neves; and the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigation, New York Region, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael C. Mikulka, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.