MIAMI (AP) — A for-profit Florida college used exotic dancers as admissions officers, falsified documents and coached students to lie on financial forms as it fraudulently obtained millions of dollars in federal money, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Miami.
On at least one of its seven campuses, FastTrain College “purposely hired attractive women and sometimes exotic dancers and encouraged them to dress provocatively while they recruited young men in neighborhoods to attend FastTrain,” according to an ongoing civil lawsuit. The Florida attorney general and the U.S. attorney in Miami announced Wednesday that they were joining the lawsuit against the now-defunct FastTrain and former owner Alejandro Amor, 56.
Amor, of Coral Gables, was criminally indicted in October and faces pending charges of conspiracy and theft of government money. A telephone message left at a listing for Amor wasn’t immediately returned
The complaint says Miami-based FastTrain and Amor bilked the U.S. Department of Education out of millions of dollars with falsified grant applications from at least January 2009 through June 2012, when the school closed after an FBI raid.
The school is accused of falsifying high school diplomas for students who didn’t have them. Because they never graduated from high school, the lawsuit contends the students wouldn’t have qualified for student aid.
To access taxpayer dollars, the school needed first-time students to attend class for at least 30 days. If they didn’t, FastTrain falsified attendance records or backdated the enrollment so they could collect the money quicker, the lawsuit says.
The growth of for-profit colleges, which are governed by private organizations or corporations, has been explosive in Florida and across the country. As the schools have grown, numerous whistle-blower lawsuits have been filed against them by ex-employees. In the FastTrain case, the whistle-blower lawsuit was originally filed by Juan Pena, a former admissions employee. These lawsuits typically gain steam only when the government joins the case, as in Pena’s lawsuit.
Some former FastTrain students say they are still struggling with student loan debts, and the lawsuit identifies more than 160 former students who are now in default. Those who were attending around the time of the FBI raid can get their loans discharged under a “closed school” provision.
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