Owner of technical training school sentenced for defrauding VA out of GI Bill money
By NIKKI WENTLING | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 29, 2020
WASHINGTON — A school owner who defrauded the Department of Veterans Affairs out of $30 million in GI Bill benefits was sentenced this week to nearly four years in prison.
Nimesh Shah, 37, owned Blue Star Learning, a technical training school in San Diego. According to the Justice Department, he took “extraordinary efforts” to deceive the VA for more than three years.
“Shah’s scheme appears to be one of the largest post-9/11 GI Bill fraud cases that has been prosecuted around the country,” the Justice Department said in a statement this week.
In order to make Blue Star Learning appear eligible for GI Bill funds, Shah provided false documents to the agency, invented fake students, created fake student files and fabricated graduate employment data. He hired people overseas to answer emails from the VA, pretending to be satisfied graduates of Blue Star Learning who worked in the technology field.
Based on the false information, the VA issued about $11 million in tuition payments to Blue Star Learning and more than $18 million in housing allowances and stipends from March 2016 to June 2019.
California Southern District Court sentenced Shah on Tuesday to 45 months in prison. He was ordered to forfeit more than $3 million and pay the VA $29.4 million in restitution. His wife, Nidhi Shah, was also charged. She was sentenced to two years of probation for lying to investigators during the investigation.