FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Nine former employees of BAE Systems have been charged in federal court for defrauding the company out of more than $200,000 combined. According to court documents, the fraudulent scheme derived from a tuition-assistance program set up by the company.
BAE Systems is not identified in the court documents, only referred to a ‘The Company.’ However, a spokesperson for BAE Systems, Neil Franz, confirmed ‘The Company’ is BAE Systems located at 4250 Airport Expressway in Fort Wayne.
In a statement, BAE Systems said the nine employees were fired in 2016 when the company discovered they were abusing a tuition-assistance program. In full, the company sent this statement Monday via email: “When BAE Systems learned in 2016 that a group of employees had been abusing the tuition assistance program for financial gain, we referred the matter to the appropriate authorities and have continued to support the investigation. Because these actions are inconsistent with the behaviors and the high ethical standards our employees uphold in fulfilling their strong dedication and commitment to our customers, we terminated the employment of those individuals involved in these practices in 2016. The company also made changes to the tuition reimbursement procedures to ensure stronger governance for this important employee education and development tool. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we have no further comment.”
The nine people were indicted in federal court. They are: Damon Bryant, Tennille Bright, Dawaun Jackson, Keyana Brooks, Jason Butz, Demarcus Benson, Andre Hollis, Leamon Perry and Frank Martin III.
The court documents say all nine employees were offered a continuing education incentive by BAE Systems. The company would reimburse employees for taking college courses. However, in 2013 the program changed to provide payment upfront instead of reimbursing the employee after the course was completed.
The court alleges the employees participated in the tuition-assistance program, but submitted fraudulent documents showing attendance and completion of the course. In the court documents, it alleges none of the employees attended the class, and pocketed $265,775 among all of them.
NewsChannel 15 asked how many employees were fired following the discovery, and what specific changes were made to the tuition-assistance program, but the company declined to comment. Nikos Nakos and Tom O’Malley, Fort Wayne lawyers representing some of the defendants, declined our request for an interview about the case.
On Tuesday NewsChannel 15 was tipped off to one more person being charged in this tuition-assistance program scheme. Federal court documents reveal Calvin Howell was also charged the same day the other nine were. In the documents, it says Howell also pocketed tuition money from BAE Systems, and did not attend his assigned courses. With a tenth person charged, the amount of money allegedly stolen between the defendants is up to $284,525.