A Los Angeles, California man has been sentenced in connection with a years-long scheme he perpetrated against relatives of veterans as well as the University of California and California State University systems.
Don Azul, 39, posed as an authorized contractor for the California Department of Veterans Affairs, according to California Attorney General Rob Bonta. Azul was alleged to have defrauded more than 40 families throughout California — with a grandparent or other family member who served in the armed forces — into paying at least $500 each for counterfeit CalVet College Fee Waivers.
The waivers are a free benefit provided by the State of California that waive tuition and fees at any UC, CSU, or California community college campus for certain eligible students, including children of a military veteran with a 100% service-connected disability.
As part of a plea deal announced Sept. 19, Azul has agreed to serve three years and four months in state prison and has been ordered by the Los Angeles Superior Court to pay over $450,000 in restitution.
“Fraudsters and bad actors seeking to exploit our military service members and their families will be held accountable,” said Bonta in a statement.
Azul pleaded no contest to seven felony counts: three counts of grand theft, two counts of forging a government seal, one count of forgery by false document, and one count of unauthorized use of personal identifying information. He also admitted to violating a state penal code for causing a loss of over $500,000.
Azul’s arrest was announced on Aug. 12, 2022. He was alleged to have approached military families, lied to them about their eligibility for the CalVet College Fee waiver, and purported to approve them for the fee waiver.
According to Bonta’s office, after providing these families with fraudulent waiver letters, Azul then instructed them to present the letters to the schools. Not realizing the letters were counterfeit, school officials accepted the letters and waived the students’ tuition.
The amount of tuition waived varied from approximately $5,800 per school year at CSUs to approximately $12,000 per year at UCs.
The scheme resulted in the theft of at least $30,000 from the relatives of veterans and over $500,000, in public funds from approximately 23 universities in the form of waived tuition.
Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.