A Los Angeles man has been arrested for scamming more than $500,000 from families with relatives in the military, along with the University of California and California State University systems.
According to a press release from Attorney General Rob Bonta on Aug. 10, Don Azul was arrested for grand theft, identity theft, forgery, and other crimes. At least $30,000 was stolen from military families and over $500,000 in public funds from around 23 universities.
According to the criminal complaint, between August 1, 2018 and February 22, 2022, Azul defrauded over 40 families by posing as a contractor for the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet).
He persuaded the families to pay at least $500 each for counterfeit College Fee Waiver letters from CalVet. For eligible families, these letters waive college tuition fees for dependents of former or current members of the military.
However, the families Azul targeted did not qualify for these benefits. Since they believed they were eligible, they turned in the waiver letters to their chosen schools. Unaware the letters were fake, university officials accepted them and waived the students' fees, which were between $5,800 and $12,000 per year.
By lying to these students and their families, Azul gave them false hopes of fulfilling their college dreams with significant financial help from CalVet, as well as defrauding them from more money they could have used toward their child’s tuition.
The University of California, California State University, California Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs took part in the investigation with the California Department of Justice.
In the press release, Bonta pledged to protect service members, veterans, and their families—allegedly one of the most common communities of people targeted by scams and fraud. A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission reported military consumers lost more than $103 million to scams in 2021.
“It is nothing short of despicable to prey on veterans' family members and take advantage of their college dreams,” said Attorney General Bonta. “My team will continue to work with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute schemes that hurt military service members and their families.”