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Metro Phoenix flight school to pay $7 million in federal whistleblower complaint

A Valley-based flight school agrees to pay $7 million to settle a federal whistleblower complaint.

The Department of Justice said Universal Helicopters and Dodge City Community College violated the False Claims Act to get money from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

As part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill the VA provided financial assistance to veterans taking classes in the helicopter flight instructor training program run by Universal Helicopters and Dodge City Community College. The VA requires at least 15% of full-time students be non-veterans to ensure the government is paying market rate for tuition and fees. 

A veteran and former student in the helicopter program complained that, between 2013 and 2018, Universal Helicopters and Dodge City Community College improperly certified compliance.

“It’s disheartening that any institution of higher learning would submit inaccurate information in order to improperly receive funds designed to benefit those who serve our nation,” said Duston Slinkard, U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas.

In a press release, the DOJ said Universal Helicopters has agreed to pay $7 million and Dodge Community College has agreed to pay $500,000 to settle the allegations. The settlement with the college is based on its ability to pay. The whistleblower, William Rowe, will receive $1.25 million as his share of the settlements.

The release also said, “The claims resolved by the settlements are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.”

Dodge City Community College, which contracts with private flight schools, left Scottsdale-based Universal in 2018 and has been working with Quantum Helicopters in Chandler.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.