48-year-old Charles Harris of Ninety Six pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiring to defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs. Federal prosecutors say Harris ran the Greenwood Barber College and received approval from the VA to certify veterans who enrolled in and completed his program.
The VA said it received a complaint in December 2013 that Harris was conspiring with several veterans to steal government funds that was supposed to be used for their training. Agency investigators said students told them that so long as they paid Harris $400 per month, he did not require them to attend class. Harris would falsify documents indicating their attendance and progress so the students could continue to receive VA educational benefits.
As part of his guilty plea, Harris admitted falsifying attendance and performance records so his could get VA benefits in return for them each paying him. Agents estimate the VA’s loss totaled more than $140,000.
Harris will be sentenced at a later date. The maximum possible penalty is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Jay Harper contributed to this report