Five more indicted in BAE tuition-fraud case; total now 20 people and more than $457,000

Five more former BAE employees have been indicted for allegedly filing false tuition-reimbursement claims with the company. They include, top row from left: Tia Russell, Tonya Sterling and Marjorie Whitfield. Bottom row, from left are Thereasa Whitsett and Darlene Wilson. (Courtesy photos)
BAE's plant on Airport Expressway will be getting more than $8 million in new equipment. (File photo by Kevin Leininger of The

Another five former BAE Systems employees have been indicted for allegedly participating in a tuition-reimbursement scheme that defrauded the aerospace firm of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The indictments, returned Wednesday by a grand jury in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne, brings to 20 the number of people who have been charged following the company’s April 2016 termination of about 45 employees in connection with the case.

According to U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Ryan Holmes, the indictments this week included Tia Russell, Tonya Sterling, Marjorie Warfield, Thereasa Whitsett and Darlene Wilson. Court records state Russell was paid $11,880 for classes she never attended, while Sterling took $28,314. The amount allegedly stolen by Warfield, Whitsett and Wilson was not immediately available, but the known total value of the alleged scheme now stands at nearly $457,000, and Holmes indicated more indictments are likely.

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As The News-Sentinel first reported in January, between 45 and 50 employees may have been involved in a scheme that exploited a 2013 company policy that paid employees in advance for the cost of tuition. Before the policy was changed last year, employees were required to provide proof of course registration and a tuition bill, and the company would then provide the funds needed to pay for the courses. Employees were also required to provide a completion certificate at the end of the course and meet certain grade requirements. If those requirements were not met, the employee would have to reimburse the company. The employees used proprietary company software to submit fraudulent documentation to BAE computers in New Hampshire, hence the federal wire-fraud charges.

According to the indictments, the former employees billed the company for classes they never attended. BAE, based in Great Britain, makes civilian and military aviation components at its three-year-old $39 million, 334,000-square-foot plant on Airport Expressway. At the time, about 20 percent of the plant’s products were military related, including circuit cards for the Air Force’s advanced F-22 fighter.