(CN) – An online high school that falsely claims to be accredited charges students $250 for fake diplomas, according to a RICO class action in Detroit Federal Court. The class claims Belford High School refuses to return tuition to students who realize they have been duped.
The three named plaintiffs say Belford H.S. and nine other defendants falsely claim to have accreditation from the International Accrediting Agency for Online Universities – a defendant – and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation – another defendant.
The IAAOU and UCOEA are either “utterly fictitious entities or active participants in this fraud,” the class says. Neither one is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, according to the complaint.
The Texas-based online high school also falsely claims to have a campus, as depicted on its Web site, and falsely claims to offer “exciting and prestigious job prospects to its students,” the class says.
The three named plaintiffs say they found Belford while searching for information online about high school diplomas and GED programs. They say they passed Belford’s purported “equivalency test” and paid tuition, then received several documents in the mail, including an illegitimate “diploma,” signed by the school’s so-called officials.
Plaintiff Evelyn Reisdorff says her employer rejected the Belford diploma, and when she contacted the Texas Department of Education, it told her that Belford High School was a scam.
She says students who complain to Belford are told to “complete numerous steps designed to discourage them from pursuing refunds.” Even after they complete those steps, Belford still denies its students refunds, the class claims.
Belford University – another defendant – has been offering bogus college programs and illegitimate college diplomas since at least 2003, the suit adds.
The class wants all the defendants and their allegedly bogus “accrediting” institutes, shut down, and more than $5 million in damages for fraud, breach of contract, misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, RICO violations and civil conspiracy.
Also named as defendants are Education Services Provider Inc.; Belford H.S. and Belford U “president” Melville P. Crowe; Belford H.S. “superintendent” Dan Robertson; Belford H.S. “administration head” Sydney Goldsmith; its “registrar” William J. McTiernan; and “secretary of the school board” Ken Calvert.
Lead counsel is Thomas Howlett of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.