OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the arrest of Don Azul in connection with an alleged years-long scheme to defraud families with relatives who served in the military, as well as the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU) systems. Azul is alleged to have duped more than 40 families with a grandparent or other family member who served in the armed forces into paying at least $500 each for counterfeit California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) College Fee Waiver letters and instructing those families to submit the letters to universities to have their children’s tuition waived when in fact they were not eligible for such a waiver. He was arrested on charges of grand theft, identity theft, and forgery, among others.
“It is nothing short of despicable to prey on veterans' family members and take advantage of their college dreams,” said Attorney General Bonta. “At the California Department of Justice, we won’t stand by when scam artists exploit important programs like the CalVet College Fee Waiver for their own selfish benefit. I want to thank the UC and CSU police departments for their critical assistance in uncovering this fraud. My team will continue to work with state and local partners to investigate and prosecute schemes that hurt military service members and their families.”
The CalVet College Fee Waiver for Veteran Dependents is a benefit provided by the State of California that waives tuition and fees at any UC, CSU, or California community college campus for students who are the dependent of a military veteran with a service-related disability. This benefit is completely free.
Posing as an authorized “contractor” for CalVet, Azul allegedly approached military families, lied to them about their eligibility for the CalVet College Fee waiver, and purported to approve them for the fee waiver. After providing these families with fraudulent waiver letters, Azul then instructed the families 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. In total, the scheme resulted in the theft of at least $30,000 from the military families and over $500,000 in public funds from approximately 23 universities in the form of waived tuition.
The Attorney General’s Office thanks the University of California, California State University, California Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs for their assistance in the investigation.
Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting service members, veterans, and their families. The military community is one of the communities most targeted by perpetrators of scams and fraud. According to a recent report by the Federal Trade Commission, military consumers lost over $103 million to scams last year. If you believe you have been the victim or target of a scam, you should immediately contact your local police department. If you are a service member, you can also reach out to your local JAG legal assistance office for advice and assistance. You may also file a complaint with the California Department of Justice at oag.ca.gov/report. For additional information on military-targeted scams, visit our website here.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.
A copy of the criminal complaint is available here.