The Complaint alleges that marketing entities use aggressive and fraudulent tactics to prey upon parents … to funnel those parents to WWASPS. Web marketing operated by these firms have self-evaluated forms where as little as 2 out of 35 choices leads to “moderate risk”, “call immediately”, and where 5 out of 35 on one website led to “high risk”, “call ASAP.”
Parents calling these marketing firms inquiring about legitimate boarding and military schools were led to WWASPS programs. They promised to teach integrity, values, honor, accountability, and respect for authority.
Promotional materials featured idyllic and modern facilities and promised that all “schools” were “fully accredited” and would be eligible to receive a “high school diploma.”
The Complaint alleged Robert Lichfield used his personal connections with David Steadman, an Officer and Director with Defendant Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges and Universities, Inc., and others at Northwest, to ensure all WWASPS-affiliated facilities could claim they were affiliated with Northwest without complying with accrediting requirements.
Allegedly Northwest blindly permitted WWASPS-affiliated schools to claim accreditation even though those schools were not meeting Northwest’s own standards and by-laws and even though some or all of the institutions (including Ivy Ridge) were neither licensed by the appropriate state agencies nor complying with state requirements and standards for degree granting educational institutions.
It was allegedly Robert Lichfield who purchased the former Mater Dei Junior College near Ogdensburg, New York. Jason Finlinson, Alyn Mitchell, and Joseph Mitchell formed two corporations – Jason G. Finlinson Corp. and the Alyn and Joseph Mitchell Corp. – to form the partnership. They then opened and operated Ivy Ridge at the Mater Dei site but, according to the Complaint, failed to operate under the laws of the State of New York.
In order for New York schools to issue Diplomas they must first apply and receive a Certificate of High School Registration from the New York Board of Regents, which allegedly Ivy Ridge never did. Instead they allegedly advertised immediately that their students would be eligible to receive high school diplomas. Premier Educational Systems, LLC, was in charge of promoting and advertising their programs’ educational component. However, Premier is not authorized to offer educational credits or award high school diplomas in New York. Before they accepted Ivy Ridge as a candidate member they should have confirmed its status with governing agencies.
Northwest claimed the information they provided was “completely truthful and ethical”. But in fact the Complaint states Ivy Ridge was not even eligible to apply for candidacy because it had been open less than two years.
Ivy Ridge allegedly continued to be falsely promoted as an accredited school. Parents chose to send their children there based on its promise Ivy Ridge was an accredited program. Children who went through their programs received high school credits, some received diplomas. None of the “diplomas” issued by Ivy Ridge were valid high school diplomas recognized by any state or governmental entity. None of the credits earned were valid educational credits recognized by the State of New York.
It is alleged that in or around early 2005 the New York State Attorney General’s office began an investigation into Ivy Ridge’s business practices. Ivy Ridge settled a claim with the Attorney General by executing an Assurance of Discontinuance requiring Ivy Ridge to “cease advertising that Ivy Ridge had a diploma granting entity.” However, as of last December websites operated by WWASPS and Ivy Ridge-affiliated entities were still advertising that Ivy Ridge issued diplomas. They were in direct violation of the Assurance of Discontinuance.
It is further alleged that defendants devised a scheme to defraud the plaintiffs by obtaining money and property from them by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. Parents paid monthly tuition payments ranging from approximately $2,900 to $4,000.
Ivy Ridge allegedly certified to educational lending institutions, including Sallie Mae and Key Bank, that Ivy Ridge was a licensed and accredited private boarding high school authorized by the State of New York to issue diplomas. This was done for the purpose of enabling parents to qualify for restricted educational loans to pay their tuition.
While the New York Attorney General’s investigation was ongoing, Ivy Ridge allegedly misrepresented to parents that their accreditation was merely “on hold” and/or that there was a minor “error in the paperwork.” Despite the fact it had never been licensed or accredited.
Parents have alleged they were misrepresented and led to believe Ivy Ridge was licensed and authorized by the State of New York to award junior and high school credits and/or diplomas. Each plaintiff claims they were damaged as a direct result and they are entitled to be compensated to the fullest extent permitted by law. Had they known the truth, they would not have entered into the Enrollment Agreement or spent exorbitant amounts of money on tuition and incidentals.
The Complaint states that as a result of the wrongful, malicious, and illegal acts of the defendants, plaintiffs are entitled to recover from defendants no less than $100,000,000. Plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial.
NOTE: Information contained herein is based on the Dungan, et al. v. The Academy of Ivy Ridge, et al. Complaint filed July 25, 2006, with the United States District Court Northern District of New York.
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