The owner of a Texas trade school has been convicted of swindling veterans and defrauding the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs of $72 million, officials say.
A federal jury convicted Jon Davis, the owner of Retail Ready Career Center in Garland, of wire fraud and money laundering on Thursday.
Prosecutors say Davis marketed the for-profit trade school’s HVAC training course to veterans whose expenses could be paid for by the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The Veterans Affairs program helps pay for school or job training for veterans who’ve served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001.
Davis is accused of lying to the Texas Workforce Commission, the Texas Veterans’ Commission and Veterans Affairs in his application, saying the school had operated for for two years when it actually hadn’t trained any students and that he didn’t face any criminal or civil actions.
Davis required the agencies’ approval to take GI Bill payments for veterans in the six-week course that cost $18,000 to $21,000, according to prosecutors.
Davis kept the journal on a computer seized by federal agents during a search of Retail Ready. It was a key piece of evidence during the trial, prosecutors say.
“I was arrested on December 20th, last Friday night (a week ago) for a warrant that had been hanging around since April apparently,” Davis wrote in the journal, according to prosecutors. “I didn’t know that I had one but it was for Theft of services for a bad check I had written in June or July of 2012 to the Doubletree for $25,000.00, which makes the charge a felony … The more complicated and damaging aspect is that having a felony arrest doesn’t do well with trying to apply for a school certificate.”
“Several decisions lie ahead that will ultimately make the difference if I succeed or if I fail,” Davis wrote in another entry. “More gut-wrenching conversations, more humiliating experiences, more lying is in order.”
The trade school also need to be an established institution with stable finances. But authorities say Davis was “essentially broke” and he faced “numerous” civil judgments over unpaid debts.
“I lied to the accountant that I am using for my audit service, I told him that I don’t have anything in the company name other than a lease and I left out having (redacted) being an employee and that I’ve had a bank account with expenses out of it because it is a disaster and wouldn’t project a very good picture,” Davis wrote in his journal, according to prosecutors.
At trial, several veterans testified were disappointed by Retail Ready’s course and felt “used,” “deceived” and “bamboozled.” They said the course hadn’t taught them many basic skills for entry-level jobs.
With the money, Davis purchased a $2.2 million Dallas home, $428,000 Lamborghini, $280,000 Ferrari and $260,000 Bentley, prosecutors say.
“Mr. Davis lied to multiple government agencies in order to swindle veterans out of their hard-won GI Bill benefits. While graduates of Retail Ready were just scraping by, Mr. Davis was living the high life,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in a news release. “We are grateful to the jury for their time in helping us bring this defendant to justice. To undermine the VA is to insult the incredible sacrifices made by U.S. military veterans.”