Couple Stole VA Funds Intended for Wounded Vets Job Training Program

The couple who ran the school used money on personal expenses like a Bermuda vacation and a sailing trip on San Diego Bay.

A couple who ran a San Diego-based school offering movie industry training to injured Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan was convicted Friday of conspiracy, fraud and theft.

The Wounded Marine Careers Foundation operated from 2007 to 2009 and required up to $88,000 for a 10-week course.

Its directors Kevin Lombard, 64, and Judith Paixao, 61, initially claimed to have donated over $200,000 to start the foundation.

However, prosecutors said the couple ended up taking over $400,000 and spending it on things like meals, a Bermuda vacation and a New Year’s Day sailing trip around the San Diego Bay.

“The fraud committed by these defendants -who used money set aside to help wounded veterans and spent it on themselves - is particularly offensive,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement.

Graduates were supposed to receive a union card with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The Department of Veterans Affairs provided $1.2 million in vocational rehabilitation funding for dozens of wounded Marine veterans to take the classes. Authorities say some of the promised equipment and training wasn't provided, and some of the money was diverted to the couple's personal use, including fancy meals, a Bermuda vacation and a sailing trip around San Diego Bay.

In addition, Paixao was convicted of defrauding another charity, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, of about $100,000 by concealing the fact that a wounded Marine who was the intended recipient had left the program.

Defense lawyers argued that Lombard, a cinematographer, and his wife had good intentions and contributed $200,000 of their own money to start the project.

Three wounded veterans testified at the couple's trial.

The Brunswick, Georgia, couple could face up to 20 years in federal prison. Both defendants remain on bond and were ordered to return to court on October 19 for a sentencing hearing.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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