The Journal Gazette
Saturday, June 23, 2018 1:00 am

11th ex-BAE worker pleads guilty

JIM CHAPMAN | The Journal Gazette

A woman admitted Friday in federal court to stealing from a Fort Wayne defense contractor through a tuition assistance program.

Jessica L. Shutt is the fifth former BAE employee this week to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne to wire fraud. She admitted taking $12,000 from the tuition assistance program, and a plea agreement with prosecutors calls for her to pay the money back to BAE systems. Another wire fraud charge will be dropped at sentencing as part of the plea agreement.

Eleven former employees have pleaded guilty to wire fraud.

A four-page indictment said Shutt submitted two requests for reimbursement, one in November and the other in December of 2015. She filed paperwork June 6 to plead guilty.

Court documents allege Shutt and 30 other BAE workers stole nearly $800,000 through the program, which was changed in 2013 to allow upfront payments to employees who signed up for college classes.

BAE, a subsidiary of a British defense contractor with offices near Fort Wayne International Airport, launched an investigation after an employee alerted company officials to the scheme in 2016. The FBI took over the investigation, and prosecutors filed the first charges in December.

Workers used software to submit requests for tuition assistance to company servers in Nashua, New Hampshire, according to court documents. The same software was used to get required documents including proof of registration, grade information and a completion certificate, prosecutors have said. “Any employee logging into the system in Fort Wayne, using this proprietary software program for tuition reimbursement, would cause a signal to be transmitted by wire to Nashua, New Hampshire,” indictments against Shutt and others state.

Tonya L. Sterling, Damon E. Bryant, Amber N. Szajna and Marjorie R. Warfield also pleaded guilty this week.

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