5 scuba pros committed $4m+ vet-diver fraud

VA fraud - ringleader sentenced
(GAO)

Last Updated on September 16, 2022 by Steve Weinman

Five dive professionals linked to dive-schools in the US state of Georgia have pleaded guilty after collaborating on a $4 million-plus scam to defraud the office that arranges scuba-diver training for military veterans. Their sentences have yet to be decided but will include millions of dollars in restitution.

The defendants admitted to a US district court that they had submitted false claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through scuba classes targeting veterans’ education benefits. 

Their false submissions mis-stated two schools’ compliance with VA regulations, student attendance dates and hours of instruction, among other information. Some defendants also helped to create fictitious scholarship programmes, to make it seem that the required percentage of non-VA students had participated in classes.

The defendants had billed VA up to $20,000-plus for each veteran student supposedly enrolled in their classes. 

Kenneth Meers, 54, was a school certifying official and course director at Scooba Shack in Savannah and Richmond Hill from about May 2018 to April 2021. He also became a consultant at Diver’s Den in St Marys around May 2020 and an instructor there from about June 2021 to February 2022. 

Meers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison plus up to three years of supervised release, as well as substantial financial penalties. He prepared and submitted Scooba Shack’s application and course catalogue for VA approval, and developed Diver’s Den’s programme knowing that the applications contained false information. 

He also directed other defendants to create the fake scholarships used to mask the percentage of students receiving VA education benefits. As part of his plea agreement, he acknowledged that the scheme had cost VA more than $3.5 million.

False, fictitious & fraudulent

Robert Lanoue, 63, and his wife Judith, 59, Scooba Shack’s owners, pleaded guilty to making false, fictitious and fraudulent claims, a charge that can mean up to five years in prison plus up to three years of supervised release, and significant financial penalties. As part of their plea agreement, they have already agreed to forfeit $271,000 from their bank account toward restitution of $3.2 million in VA losses.

Scooba Shack store manager, instructor and school certifying official David Anderegg, 42, pleaded guilty to the same charge as the owners.

Theresa Whitlock, 55, who operated Diver’s Den and served as a school certifying official, pleaded guilty to making a false statement, which carries a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison. She provided false information to the VA about the school’s diving programmes, and submitted claims for tuition payments exceeding $1.1 million. She will forfeit $64,260 seized from Diver’s Den’s bank accounts.

The case was investigated by the VA Office of Inspector General and prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

“The scope of the fraud uncovered in this investigation is stunning, particularly when you consider the scheme siphoned funds intended for providing legitimate education assistance to former service members,”  said prosecuting attorney David H Estes. “We applaud the work of the VA Office of Inspector General in identifying and halting this fraud.”

In January, Divernet reported on how Women Divers Hall of Famer Tammy Brown, who owned New Jersey school Divers Academy International, was sentenced to 27 months in prison plus a three-year supervision period for one count of defrauding the US government through wire fraud. She was also fined $50,000 and ordered to pay restitution of $1.1 million.

She too had been accused of fraudulently obtaining funding from VA, as well as the US Department of Education (DoE).

This week, it looks like DPV manufacturer ScubaJet has begun insolvency proceedings. PADI has distributed half a million dollars in their Project Aware campaign. Dorset coastguard have called off the search for a missing diver. And the Pearl Fleet has commented on a viral video of a shark-dive that didn’t go so well
https://taucher.net/diveinside-insolvency_proceedings_at_scubajet-kaz9246
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/conservation/padi-aware-distributes-500k-in-mission-hub-grants/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/raid-launches-ots-full-face-mask-programme/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/dorset-coastguard-call-off-search-for-diver/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/search-for-diver-off-dorset-stood-down/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/pearl-fleet-hits-back-as-maldives-shark-dive-slammed/
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The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

This week, it looks like DPV manufacturer ScubaJet has begun insolvency proceedings. PADI has distributed half a million dollars in their Project Aware campaign. Dorset coastguard have called off the search for a missing diver. And the Pearl Fleet has commented on a viral video of a shark-dive that didn’t go so well
https://taucher.net/diveinside-insolvency_proceedings_at_scubajet-kaz9246
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/conservation/padi-aware-distributes-500k-in-mission-hub-grants/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/raid-launches-ots-full-face-mask-programme/
https://www.scubadivermag.com/dorset-coastguard-call-off-search-for-diver/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/search-for-diver-off-dorset-stood-down/
https://divernet.com/scuba-news/health-safety/pearl-fleet-hits-back-as-maldives-shark-dive-slammed/
Diving Into The Darkness Link:
https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/mzsd


Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
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The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

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@preethasebastian8921
Sharks and Yum Yum Yellow. What are your thoughts? #askmark
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@preethasebastian8921
Sharks and Yum Yum Yellow. What are your thoughts? #askmark
#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
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@emilyZA460
#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
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The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

Diving Into The Darkness Website:
https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/mzsd

@emilyZA460
#AskMark hi! I was hoping you could help me understand the interchangeability of a DSMB and a simple SMB if I only plan to use it when I deploy it during my safety stop at 5 meters. I used the simple version for this purpose during my last liveaboard and despite occasionally having to reinflate at the surface due to some air escaping while being deployed underwater, it didn’t seem to be too problematic and so I was wondering if it’s necessary to have a DSMB for this purpose? The issue for me is that somehow I tend to end up misplacing my SMB quite often and so the price difference between the two makes it a more acceptable loss when it’s replacing the SMB regularly rather than the DSMB at double the cost
#scuba #scubadiving #scubadiver
LINKS

Become a fan: https://www.scubadivermag.com/join
Gear Purchases: https://www.scubadivermag.com/affiliate/dive-gear
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
OUR WEBSITES

Website: https://www.scubadivermag.com ➡️ Scuba Diving, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Scuba Gear Reviews
Website: https://www.divernet.com ➡️ Scuba News, Underwater Photography, Hints & Advice, Travel Reports
Website: https://www.godivingshow.com ➡️ The Only Dive Show in the United Kingdom
Website: https://www.rorkmedia.com ➡️ For advertising within our brands
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We partner with https://www.scuba.com and https://www.mikesdivestore.com for all your gear essentials. Consider using the affiliate link above to support the channel.

The information in this video is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional SCUBA Training. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this video is for general information purposes only and does not replace training from a qualified Dive Instructor.

YouTube Video UEw2X2VCMS1KYWdWbXFQSGV1YW84WVRHb2pFNkl3WlRSZS4yOUY5MUNBMTM5RDMyREQ5

What's the Point of Fancy dSMBs? #askmark #scuba

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