BRUNSWICK, Ga. (WSAV) — The director of a Camden County dive shop has admitted to making false claims to the Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs about a scuba diving class that focused on educational benefits for military veterans.
John Spike, 39, of Yule, Florida, is now awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty, officials said. Spike is accused of making false, fictitious and fraudulent claims.
His guilty plea means he faces a possible statutory sentence of up to five years in prison, along with significant financial penalties and restitution, and up to three years of supervised release after any prison term.
There is no parole in the federal system.
Officials say Spiker was a school certifier and director of training at Diver’s Den in St. Marys, Georgia. He admitted that between January 2021 and January 2022, he and others knowingly submitted false and misleading information to the Department of Veterans Affairs for tuition payments under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The amount was $722,399.19.
It was not the only defendant from one business. The five other defendants who pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court are owners, managers and/or instructors at Diver’s Den and Scooba Shack in Savannah and Richmond Hill. The defendants are responsible for defrauding more than $6 million in VA education benefits.
The fraudulent information provided to the VA included false compliance with VA regulations, student attendance dates, and hours of instruction, among other information.
“Preserving post-9/11 education funds reserved for deserving veterans remains a priority, and our investigators are working diligently on the ground to ensure these programs are not used for financial gain and greed,” said Special Agent in Charge David Spilker. with the Veterans Affairs Division of the Southeast Field Office of the Inspector General. “The six guilty pleas in this case are a testament to our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to bring to justice those who defrauded VA benefit programs.”
The case is being investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the United States criminal case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.