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WDHOF Member jailed for fraud

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WDHOF Member jailed for fraud

Fri, 14/01/2022 - 13:23
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The United States Attorney’s Office confirmed on Wednesday 12 January 2022 that Tamara 'Tammy' Brown, a WDHOF member, has been sentenced to 27 months in prison for fraud. This follows an investigation by the FBI, in co-operation with defrauded government departments.

Tamara Brown, Tammy Brown, Divers Academy International, US Department of Justice, WDHOF, Women Divers Hall of Fame, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, XRay Mag, X-Ray Magazine, scuba diving news, commerical diving news
Tamara Brown pictured in circa 2000, when she was part of the inaugural class inducted into the USA centric 'Women Divers Hall of Fame'

In addition to the prison term, US District Judge Joseph H Rodriguez has sentenced Tamara Brown to three years of supervised release, fined her US$50,000 and ordered restitution of US$1.1 million.

The 58-year-old commercial diver of Haddon Heights, New Jersey had previously admitted guilt to one count of wire fraud in connection with her operation of a commercial diving school from January 2012 through to July 2018.

Tamara 'Tammy' Brown

Tammy Brown began her career in commercial diving in 1982, after graduating from the Divers Academy. The school teaches commercial divers and provides specialist courses in underwater welding and salvage techniques.

Tammy Brown went on to obtain many advanced certifications in related fields, such as bridge inspection and Nondestructive testing. In 1990, she became School Director at Divers Academy. She also became President of the Association of Commercial Diving Educators.

In 2000, Tammy Brown was part of the inaugural class inducted into the USA centric 'Women Divers Hall of Fame'. 

Tammy is recognized as a leader in the commercial diving industry. WDHOF

Today, Tammy Brown is the President and CEO of Divers Academy International.

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Divers Academy International, Tammy Brown, Tamara Brown, WDHOF, Women Divers Hall of Fame
A diver entering the water at Divers Academy International | Image Credit: Divers Academy International Twitter, February 2014

 

Divers Academy

Divers Academy was previously located on the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey and owned/operated by Tammy's parents, ‘Captain Bill’ and Sharon Brown. In 2006, Tammy Brown purchased Divers Academy and renamed it 'Divers Academy International'.

She also bought a 16 hectare / 40acre, 18 mt / 60ft quarry in Erial, New Jersey, and oversaw the design and construction of an administrative and training facility on the site. It meant that the state-of-the-art facility was very accessible from both Philadelphia and New York City.

Divers Academy is a commercial diving school with over 40 years of established industry trade relationships. We teach both inland and offshore dive disciplines and prepare divers for careers in the oil and gas industry and maritime bridge and construction industry.

Prior to 2012, Divers Academy International had been properly accredited.

Tammy Brown explains how a commercial diver works when saturation diving

One of the pioneers in developing commercial diving certification standards. Women Divers Hall of Fame

 

Fraud

In April 2021, Acting US Attorney Rachael A. Honig stated "as a for-profit institution, the diving school required accreditation to be eligible to receive tuition funds from the US Department of Education (DOE) and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The process also helps evaluate the eligibility of veteran students to receive the aid.

Given that more than 80% of the diving school’s students received financial assistance from the [US] Department of Education, the school stood to lose its largest source of tuition funding for its students if it lost its accreditation.”

US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger stated on 12 January 2022, that Tammy Brown had dishonestly submitted information to the accrediting authority in 2012, in order to fraudulently obtain funds from the US Departments of DOE and VA for the school and its students.

The United States Attorney’s Office stated that Tammy Brown had reported an 81% - 84% employment rate of school graduates when the employment rates were closer to 50% - 60%. (These were significantly lower than the rate required to maintain accreditation). 

In addition, Tammy Brown had provided fraudulent information stating that the school had held a number of "advisory board" meetings. These meetings are required for accreditation and are part of the application process.

The advisory board meetings should ensure that the school’s curriculum educates students to the current demands of the industry and prospective employers. The diving school did not have a formal advisory board and did not regularly conduct meetings as required. It was found that Tammy Brown had submitted wholly fabricated meeting minutes for at least six of the nine dates listed in the school’s accreditation application and, therefore, did not satisfy the minimum accreditation requirements. 

Divers Academy International regularly received DOE funds, including a payment made in January 2017.

Student Loan Debt

The Department of Justice has advised that "students who can show that their school misled them or engaged in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws may be eligible for the discharge of some or all federal student loan debt under certain circumstances pursuant to the Borrower Defense Loan Discharge program." Former students of Divers Academy International who wish to seek federal loan forgiveness may apply here

WDHOF Responds

A spokeman for the Women Divers Hall of Fame exclusively told X-Ray Mag on 16 January 2022 "WDHOF takes pride in our members’ accomplishments and efforts that were so significant they were inducted into the organization. We also appreciate their continued enthusiasm for helping the organization strive to make a positive impact through our training grants and scholarships. WDHOF has always had the expectation that our members continue to be ethical and honorable in their actions.

We do not condone the actions that led to the charges and conviction. WDHOF

We became aware of a member who has been convicted of a felony and it both took us by surprise and saddened us. We realize we have no control over anyone’s behavior, but an organization that recognizes the good in women and respects and honors their achievements, was dismayed and upset. We have had no policy or section in our Bylaws for consideration of a member who has been found guilty of a felony or for a member who in some way has seriously damaged the reputation of WDHOF. We have had complete trust in our members and their ethics, but now we want to take steps to protect the reputation of the organization.

As a result, as a first step, we developed an ethics statement for our members which was presented in our August Update and in the Strategic Plan. Additionally, the Board has been developing policies as needed." 

WDHOF Ethics Statement 

All Members shall be women of good reputation and of excellent moral and ethical standards as a condition of nomination, selection, and continued affiliation. 

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