Texas-Based School Chain to Pay Government $3.7 Million for Submitting False Claims for Federal Student Financial Aid Schools Located in Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Oklahoma

ATI Enterprises Inc. will pay the government $3.7 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that it falsely certified compliance with federal student aid programs’ eligibility requirements and submitted claims for ineligible students, the Justice Department announced today.

“Federal financial aid is meant to help students obtain a quality education from an eligible institution, and the Department of Justice is committed to ensuring colleges comply with the rules to make certain that happens,” said Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division.

Allegedly, ATI Enterprises knowingly misrepresented to the Texas Workforce Commission and to the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges its job placement statistics to maintain its state licensure and accreditation. To participate in federal student aid programs, as authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (Title IV), schools must enter into a contract with the Secretary of Education called a Program Participation Agreement, in which they agree to a number of terms. For example, if an institution advertises its job placement rates as a means of attracting students to enroll, it must make available to prospective students its most recent and accurate employment statistics to substantiate the truthfulness of its advertisements. The government alleged that, by misrepresenting its job placement statistics, ATI Enterprises fraudulently maintained its eligibility for federal financial aid under Title IV.

The government further alleged that ATI employees engaged in fraudulent practices to induce students to enroll and maintain their enrollment in the schools. This falsely increased the schools’ enrollment numbers, and consequently, the amount of federal dollars they received at the expense of taxpayers and students, who incurred long-term debt.

“Misuses of the federal student aid system must not be tolerated, for the sake of the taxpayers and of the innocent individuals who are seeking a quality education,” said Sarah R. Saldaña, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, where some of the ATI campuses involved in the lawsuit are located.

Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida said: “Federal financial aid is there to help students attain their dreams and goals, and misuse of these funds to increase corporate profits is unacceptable. We are committed to ensuring that federal student aid is used for the benefit of students.”

The settlement amount will be paid from funds supporting three letters of credit that ATI provided to the Department of Education. In addition to the False Claims Act settlement, the Department of Education will disburse from the letter of credit funds $2 million for student loan refunds in relation to cases students filed against ATI in Texas state courts and other related arbitrations.

“Federal student aid exists so that students can make the dream of a higher education a reality. That’s why misuse in any way of these vital funds cannot be tolerated,” said Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Education. “I’m proud of the work of OIG special agents for holding ATI Enterprises accountable and for protecting the integrity of federal education dollars.”

The settlement resolves allegations made in two separate complaints against ATI Enterprises Inc., and related entities filed under the False Claims Act’s qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions, which permit a private individual to file suit for false claims to the government and to share in any recovery. The first complaint, U.S. ex rel. Aldridge, et al. v. ATI Enterprises Inc., et al., was filed in July 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The second complaint, U.S. ex rel. Ramirez-Damon v. ATI Enterprises Inc., was filed in July 2011 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

This matter was investigated by the Commercial Litigation Branch of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, and the Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General and Office of General Counsel. The claims settled by this agreement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

Professor Sentenced to 41 Months for Grant Fraud

Although we were unable to locate a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office in M.D. Pa, a professor charged on January 31, 2012 with grant fraud, received a stiff sentence: 3.5 years in prison and $660,000 restitution.  More than 100 letters were received by the court advocating leniency (including from the professor’s thesis adviser and from a current financial backer of his research).  Despite this and powerful testimony from supporters (including his father), the court meted out what must have been seen by the defendant, his family and supporters as very harsh justice.

PennLive.Com article on sentencing

Original US Attorney’s 1-31-12 Press Release below:

Former Penn State Professor Charged In $3 Million Federal Research Grant Fraud

January 31, 2012

The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that a felony Information has been filed in United States District Court in Harrisburg against Craig Grimes, age 55, of Raleigh, North Carolina, charging him with wire fraud, false statements, and money laundering. During the time period alleged in the Information, Grimes resided in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, and was a Professor of Material Science and Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University.

According to United States Attorney Peter J. Smith, Count I of the Information charges that between June 30, 2006, and February 1, 2011, Grimes defrauded the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) of federal grant monies. The NIH, a component of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, provides funding for medical research through grants.

Grimes, acting through his solely-owned company, SentechBiomed, State College, PA requested a $1,196,359.00 grant from NIH to perform research related to the measurement of gases in a patient’s blood. The measurement of these gases was purported to be relevant to detecting the presence of a disease in infants known as necrotizing enterocolitis.

In the application, Grimes specifically represented to NIH that he would direct approximately $509,274.00 to the Hershey Medical Center to conduct clinical research on adult and infant subjects. The money was never paid. Instead, the grant funds were misappropriated, in part, by Grimes for his own use. The clinical studies/trials were not performed.

Count II of the Information charges Grimes with allegedly making false statements to the United States Department of Energy in connection with a second federal grant. In August 2009, Grimes, while a PSU professor, completed a grant application seeking a $1,908,732.00 grant from the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy(ARPA-E) which was created to foster research and development of energy-related technologies. The ARPA-E grant was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

ARPA-E seeks to avoid funding research already funded by other government and private entities. It requires applicants for grants to disclose other funding sources. In the application Grimes completed and had submitted to ARPA-E, he allegedly stated there was no other funding, when, in fact, he had received a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Count III of the Information charges Grimes with money laundering the proceeds of the fraudulent proceeds he received from the National Institutes of Health.

United States Attorney Smith stated, “Fraud in connection with federally funded university research harms public health and safety and damages our scientific and educational institutions. Such cases will be investigated and prosecuted as vigorously as any other type of serious economic crimes. Anyone with information concerning suspected research fraud should contact the Office of Inspector General for the appropriate federal agency.”

Greg Friedman, Inspector General, U.S. Department of Energy, stated that “The Department of Energy is a major underwriter of energy research in the United States. Cases that impact the integrity of the process are important to us. Abuse of the system is unacceptable. I would like to thank the United States Attorney’s Office and the IG Special Agents who worked tirelessly on this case. This investigation and prosecution demonstrate our commitment to holding those who defraud the Department accountable for their actions.”

“NIH grants billions in taxpayer funds each year to advance vital medical research,” said Nicholas DiGiulio, the Philadelphia Region’s Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services. “Every dollar is precious, so any misappropriation of these funds – as the government charges Mr. Grimes today – will be investigated aggressively.”

If convicted, Grimes faces up to thirty-five years in prison and a fine of $750,000.

Fraud related to U.S. Department of Energy may be reported to: (800) 541-1625.

Fraud related to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including U.S. National Institutes of Health, grants and programs may be reported to: 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

Fraud related to U.S. National Science Foundation grants and programs may be reported to: 703-292-7100.

The investigation is being conducted by special agents of the Department of Energy, Office of Inspector General, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the IRS. Prosecution is assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Joseph J. Terz.


An Indictment or Information is not evidence of guilt but simply a description of the charge made by the Grand Jury and/or United States Attorney against a defendant. A charged Defendant is presumed innocent until a jury returns a unanimous finding that the United States has proven the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or until the defendant has pled guilty to the charges.