Monday, April 16, 2018 4:00 pm
2nd former BAE employee pleads guilty in tuition scheme
MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette
David P. Rinderle Jr. admitted today in federal court to stealing money from a defense contractor in Fort Wayne through the company's tuition assistance program.
He worked for BAE Systems, which has offices near Fort Wayne International Aiport, from 2007 to 2016 and stole $30,750, according to court documents. Rinderle is the second person to plead guilty to wire fraud in the case.
Latonya D. Smith, 40, pleaded guilty April 6.
Twenty-three others are charged in the alleged scheme in which workers filed tuition assistance requests for college courses and pocketed the money without taking the classes. The company had allowed up-front payments to employees who filed the requests.
Employees stole more than $600,000 from BAE, court documents say.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Speith said investigators were tipped off to the fraudulent claims from Rinderle and Smith by receipts purportedly signed by an Indiana Tech administrator who left her position months before the tuition requests were processed.
Speith said a receipt for four classes for Rinderle was returned in January 2014. In March 2014, she said, $6,750 was deposited into Rinderle's bank account.
The Indiana Tech employee – whom she identified as "L. O-T" – left the college's business office in March 2013.
"Any document with her name after that was, in fact, fraudulent," Speith said.
Speith and Ryan Holmes, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, have declined to say whether receipts from each of the defendants charged in the case list the former college employee.
Indiana Tech has not been connected to the case, and college officials said its employees played no role in the scheme.
BAE is a subsidiary of British defense contractor BAE Systems PLC and provides parts to aircraft manufacturers including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It changed its tuition assistance program in 2013 to allow for up-front payments, and court records allege workers quickly began signing up for classes and pocketing the money.
Employees were required to submit information including proof of registration, a tuition bill and a completion certificate, under the program. They allegedly used proprietary BAE software to submit requests to company servers in New Hampshire that provided all of that information.
Amounts stolen by workers range from $6,750 to $55,056.
Rinderle netted $30,750 through four requests filed in 2014, 2015 and 2016, an indictment alleges. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud Monday.
Three other charges will be dismissed, according to a plea agreement filed in March.
Smith stole $27,000 from BAE, court documents say, and a plea agreement calls for her to pay back the money.
Sentencing dates for Rinderle and Smith have not been set.