SAN DIEGO — A couple that ran a tax-exempt school to train wounded Marines for jobs in the movie industry were convicted Friday of conspiracy, fraud and theft.
Kevin Lombard, 64, and Judith Paixao, 61, could face up to 20 years in federal prison.
The U.S. attorney's office said that from 2007 to 2009, the Brunswick, Georgia, couple ran the Wounded Marine Careers Foundation in San Diego. The school charged up to $88,000 for a 10-week course.
Graduates were supposed to receive a union card with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provided $1.2 million in vocational rehabilitation funding for dozens of wounded Marine veterans to take the classes. Authorities say some of the promised equipment and training wasn't provided, and some of the money was diverted to the couple's personal use, including fancy meals, a Bermuda vacation and a sailing trip around San Diego Bay.
"These defendants capitalized on the misfortune of wounded marines in their time of vulnerability and took advantage of the VA's commitment to serving wounded veterans to defraud the VA and enrich themselves," U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said in a statement.
In addition, Paixao was convicted of defrauding another charity, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, of about $100,000 by concealing the fact that a wounded Marine who was the intended recipient had left the program.
Defense lawyers argued that Lombard, a cinematographer, and his wife had good intentions and contributed $200,000 of their own money to start the project.
Three wounded veterans testified at the couple's trial.