The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 26, 2018 1:00 am

5 more BAE workers face fraud charges

15 indicted by feds in tuition case

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Five more employees of a British defense contractor with operations in Fort Wayne were indicted this week on federal charges in an alleged scheme to defraud the company through a tuition assistance program. 

That brings the total number of indictments to 15 employees who allegedly stole more than $400,000 from BAE Systems from January 2013 to April 2016.

One of the workers, Andre J. Hollis, netted more than $55,000, court documents say.

The case filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne says employees signed up for classes through the program but pocketed thousands of dollars in tuition money and never took the classes. 

A grand jury returned indictments Dec. 19 on Hollis, Damon E. Bryant, Dawaun A. Jackson, Demarcus L. Benson, Calvin J. Howell, Tennille M. Bright, Keyana S. Brooks, Jason C. Butz, Frank J. Martin III and Leamon D. Perry. Stephanie M. Dates, David P. Rinderle Jr., Latonya D. Smith, Nicholas A. Young and Amber N. Szajna were indicted Wednesday. 

The indictments do not name the company, but BAE Systems issued a statement last week confirming it fired the workers named in court documents in 2016.

Defense attorney Nikos Nakos is representing Hollis and Benson and said both attended classes – one of them at Indiana Tech. He said Thursday his clients, who have moved on to other jobs, asked him not to comment on the cases.

BAE supplies Boeing with parts for military and commercial aircraft. It operates a plant near Baer Field.

The company in 2013 changed its tuition assistance program to provide upfront payment for the cost of courses rather than reimbursement, the indictments said.

Almost immediately, court documents said, employees began to pocket tuition money.

Hollis submitted the first of four tuition assistance course requests on Jan. 4, 2013, according to court documents. Smith, who allegedly stole $27,000, submitted her first request in September 2013, court documents said.

Each of the 15 defendants is charged with fraud.

Employees were required to provide proof of registration for the courses, a tuition bill and a completion certificate when classes were completed. BAE alleges workers used software provided by the company to submit tuition assistance requests that included those items as well as grade information.

BAE spokesman Neil Franz declined to say Thursday whether he expects more employees to be charged and referred to the statement, which says the company has changed tuition assistance procedures “to ensure stronger governance for this important employee education and development tool.”

Amounts allegedly stolen by employees range from $18,750 to $55,056.

All of those charged had worked for BAE for at least three years, court documents said. Three – Dates, Howell and Smith – worked for the company for more than a decade, the indictments said.

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