Man pleads guilty to conspiracy

Published 10:04 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Suffolk man pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to defraud the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ GI Bill program.

Kent Chillous, 55, faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on Jan. 11, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. However, federal defendants typically get a lesser sentence than the maximum.

Chillous is a U.S. Navy veteran who attended the Hampton Roads Skills Center using Post-9/11 GI Bill funds, according to the press release.

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The school purported to be a welding training school offering vocational skills to its students, many of whom were veterans using GI Bill funds.

However, the school did not provide regular instruction for any of its course offerings, either in a classroom setting or practical, hands-on setting, the press release stated.

“Moreover, the majority of students were not even physically present at HRSC during most of the hours their courses were purportedly held,” the press release continued. “Indeed, some students never once entered the HRSC building at any point during their period of enrollment.”

According to court documents, Chillous was enrolled as an HRSC student between June 2016 and July 2017, during which time he did not receive welding instruction and was rarely, if ever, physically present at the school.

However, on the basis of his enrollment, the VA paid him a regular housing stipend and paid HRSC for his tuition.

Additionally, a few months after his enrollment at the school, Chillous and the school’s owner struck a deal for Chillous to recruit veterans to enroll in HRSC, to boost the GI Bill revenue coming into the school. Chillous was paid a recruitment fee of approximately 8 percent of the tuition HRSC would receive from the VA on behalf of each veteran he successfully enrolled. Over the next 10 months, Kent successfully recruited approximately 20 Post-9/11 GI Bill-eligible veterans to enroll at HRSC.

Chillous pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.