WEST PALM BEACH (CN) - A student says in a class action that the profit-seeking Palm Beach Institute of Technology has been lying for years about pursuing accreditation, and that the school "did not even seek accreditation until 2011," and its application was denied.
Lead plaintiff Michelle Ferrara says she enrolled in January 2009 and paid $24,000 in tuition, based on the school's promise that "PBIT was already seeking accreditation and that the school would be accredited prior to her graduation from the diagnostic medical sonography program."
The school opened in West Palm Beach in 2006 and opened a second campus in Fort Myers in 2008, according to the complaint in Palm Beach County Court.
"Prior to enrollment, plaintiff and members of the class were told by PBIT officials that PBIT was in the process of seeking accreditation and that the school would attain accreditation prior to their graduations. Plaintiff and members of the class relied on these representations in deciding to enroll at PBIT," Ferrara says.
"In fact, upon information and belief, PBIT did not even seek accreditation until 2011, and its application for accreditation in 2011 was denied.
"Despite assurances to plaintiff and members of the class that PBIT was in the process of seeking accreditation and would have accreditation prior to their graduations, PBIT has never been accredited and remains unaccredited to this day, resulting in substantial harm to plaintiff and members of the class," the complaint states.
For her $24,000, Ferrara says, she graduated in January 2011, without an accredited degree.
She also sued Victor H. Ortega, with whom she met in December 2008 and who allegedly told her "that the school would be accredited prior to her graduation from the diagnostic medical sonography program."
Ferrara claims: "Dr. Ortega, at all relevant times, dominated and controlled PBIT to such an extent that PBIT's separate existence was, in fact, nonexistent, and its shareholders were alter egos of PBIT.
"Upon information and belief, the corporate form of PBIT has been used for an improper purpose."
She adds: "Defendants profited greatly from misrepresentations to plaintiff and members of the class regarding PBIT's pursuit and attainment of accreditation."
A visit to the school's website this morning (Wednesday) turned up no information about enrollment numbers. The school stated: "PBIT is a school licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education." It adds: "Currently PBIT-FM offers the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program only but soon will have more programs available."
Ferrara seeks an injunction and damages for the class, for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
She is represented by Drew Lovell of Palm Beach Gardens.
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