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October 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Georgia Dive Store Operators Guilty of Bilking the Veteran’s Administration

from the October, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Five dive professionals linked to Scooba Shack and Diver's Den in Georgia have been found guilty of collaborating in a $4 million-plus scam to defraud the Veteran's Administration program that arranges scuba diving training for military veterans.

Their submissions for dive training money misstated the two schools' compliance with VA regulations, student attendance dates, and hours of instruction, among other phony claims. They created fictitious scholarship programs 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 diving classes.

Prosecuting attorney David H. Estes called the scope and extent of the fraud "stunning."

Between May 2018 and February 2022, Kenneth Meers, 54, was a dive course director at Scooba Shack in Savannah and Richmond Hill, Georgia, and became a consultant to Diver's Den in St. Marys. He prepared Scooba Shack's application and course catalog for VA approval and developed Diver's Den's program, knowing that both contained false information. He also directed the other defendants to create fake scholarships to mask the percentage of students receiving VA education benefits.

Meers pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in jail as well as substantial financial penalties.

Robert Lanoue, 63, and his wife Judith, 59, Scooba Shack's owners, pled guilty to making false and fraudulent claims, as did their store manager, instructor, and school certifying official, David Anderegg, 42.

Theresa Whitlock, 55, operator of Diver's Den, serving as a school certifying official, also pled guilty to making a false statement and providing false information about the school's diving programs, submitting claims for tuition payments exceeding $1.1 million.

This case follows the April 2021 case of Tamara Brown, of the Women Diver's Hall of Fame, who owned the Diver's Academy International outside Philadelphia, and was sentenced to 27 months in jail and fined $50,000 for similar offenses.

Who would have thought that dive operators ran a cauldron of fraud?

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