MIAMI (CN) – Jet University, an unaccredited flight-training school, used brazen ruses to get its hands on student loan money, former students claim in three lawsuits.
Thirteen students sued the shuttered school in Miami-Dade County Court.
In one complaint, five former students say Jet U concealed that it “did not have any financing programs and was not recognized by the United States Department of Education nor the Florida Department of Education as an accredited postsecondary institution and had no legitimate financing options in place for its prospective students, despite Jet U’s assertions that it did in fact have ‘exclusive financing programs.'”
Some students say Jet U told them to list other schools on their loan applications, claiming that some of their instruction would take place at the other schools.
The say the whole ruse was just a scheme by the defendants “to divide the student educational loans and other paid cash proceeds among themselves.”
Osvaldo Morales is the lead plaintiff in the case involving five former students. This complaint states that Jet University was open from 2006 to 2009.
Nonparty Heath Cohen was its president, and defendant Bradley Mark Ottosen managed the training program but was paid through his own corporation, defendant Universal Jet Training Center, the complaint states.
The complaint states: “Prior to the formation of Jet U, [nonparty] Gulfstream Training Academy, a flight training academy, located in Broward County, Florida, employed Cohen and Ottosen.
“Upon his termination from Gulfstream Training Academy, Cohen founded Jet U on or about January 2006 as a marketing arm for recruitment of students into a program offered by Simcenter Inc. (‘Simcenter’). Through this arrangement, Cohen earned commissions for placing students into a Simcenter program that trained students specifically for placement with [nonparty] Custom Air Transport, a cargo airline operator.
“On or about April 2006, Simcenter’s Custom Air Transport Program ended due to the sale of Custom Air Transport. As a result, a number of Simcenter’s Custom Air Transport students were left out of a training program.
“Cohen transformed Jet U into a pilot training school of its own and targeted the stranded Custom Air Transport students, encouraging them to use any refund monies for tuition.
“Cohen and Ottosen used their connections from their employment with Gulf Stream Academy to encourage prospective Gulfstream Training Academy students to switch to Jet U. A number of students were contacted by Jet U after having expressed interest in Gulfstream.
“Via widespread marketing efforts in national flying print publications and through the Internet, including on its interactive website www.jetuniversity.com, Jet U purported to offer a fast track training program which guaranteed employment with its ‘partner airlines’ Pinnacle.”
Pinnacle Airlines is named as a defendant.
According to the complaint, Cohen testified at a bankruptcy hearing that “Pinnacle entered into an agreement with Cohen and Jet U to hire Jet U students. Jet U also informed students and prospective students that Pinnacle was underwriting part of the cost of training with Jet U.
“Defendant Pinnacle, through its website, directed interested prospective pilots to Jet U’s ‘program designed for Pinnacle Airlines within the Jet University First Officer Program’ and stated that ‘there is no faster, more efficient or cost effective way to launch your professional career.’ The Pinnacle website then provided a direct link to the Jet U website, which in turn contained a photograph of a jet resembling a typical Pinnacle Northwest Airlink jet with a gray fuselage and red tail fin.”
Two pages later, in the 29-page complaint, the former students say: “Upon information or belief no Jet U student ever received the two hundred and fifty (250) hours of logged flight time upon failing to obtain the guaranteed first officer position.
“Jet U required full tuition payment in advance and students paid approximately $1,500 in cash as a deposit to attend Jet U.
“Jet U’s recruiting brochure also advertised that Jet U offered full financing options, including the cost of living, through ‘Jet University’s exclusive financing programs.’
“Jet U did not have any financing programs was not recognized by the United States Department of Education nor the Florida Department of Education as an accredited postsecondary institution and had no legitimate financing options in place for its prospective students, despite Jet U’s assertions that it did in fact have ‘exclusive financing programs.’
“Simcenter was at all times material hereto an accredited training school recognized by the Department of Education (DOE) and met the requirements of The Education Resources Institute (TERI’) for the purposes of collecting tuition moneys arising from loans made to students attending Simcenter. As a result of this accreditation, banks approved loan applications submitted by prospective Jet U students with the application being approved for Simcenter funds to be sent to Simcenter.
“Cohen, Ottosen, and the owner of Simcenter, Henry George, devised a scheme whereby prospective Jet U students obtained educational financing by using Simcenter’s application forms and DOE financial aid code.
“Cohen and Ottosen also occasionally utilized the DOE financial aid code of various other schools in exchange for commissions in order to work the student loan scheme through banks including Wachovia Bank (‘Wachovia’) and Sallie Mae Bank (‘Sallie Mae’).
“Pursuant to the Jet U student loan scheme, and with the direction, knowledge, and consent of Cohen and Ottosen, all of the student loan applications submitted to banks, primarily Wachovia, by or on behalf of the Jet U students, referred the DOE financial aid code of various other schools, primarily Simcenter, as the school of attendance.
“The banks disbursed approved Jet U student loan monies to the school whose DOE financial aid code was used by Jet U in the loan application, which retained a portion of the student loan proceeds even though the student was not attending such school and which then disbursed the balance of the loan proceeds to Jet U. Jet U disbursed any portion of the loan proceeds to students that were allocated for costs of living of the students and the remainder went to Jet U and Universal Jet.
“Plaintiffs herein did not obtain student loans to pay for their attendance at Jet U, but nonetheless relied on Jet U’s false representations regarding ‘Jet University’s exclusive financing programs’ in evaluating the overall viability of Jet U. Plaintiffs were also deceived by the fact that Jet U appeared to be a viable flight training school as a result of the large number of students who were enrolled as a result of the student loan scheme described above.
“Plaintiffs herein were not informed about the nature of the student loan scheme between Jet U, Universal Jet, Simcenter and others and were misled by the officers and managers. at Jet U about the relationship between Jet U and Simcenter, in particular, by leading plaintiffs and other students to believe that some portion of the flight training would take place at Simcenter, and/or otherwise indicating that Simcenter and Jet U were affiliated other than solely for the purpose of obtaining improper student loan proceeds.
“Upon information and belief no Jet U student ever received training at Simcenter while enrolled at Jet U.”
The complaint adds: “Until Jet U closed its doors, by abandoning the premises in 2009, the Jet U students did not know, nor were they able to comprehend, and to understand the defendants’ fraudulent scheme, which was planned, designed an4 executed by some or all of the defendants acting in consortium. …
“Cohen and Ottosen intentionally and wrongfully utilized their respective companies, Jet U and Universal Jet, to conceal their scheme in order to divide the student educational loans and other paid cash proceeds among themselves. The defendants acted in concert in order to promote and to sell the scheme by actively misleading, deceiving, and misrepresenting the truth in order to recruit students by utilizing illegal marketing tactics that were in violation of Florida law, such as a written promise of a guaranteed job at a commercial airline as a commercially licensed pilot.”
Named as defendants in the Morales complaint are Jet University Inc., Pinnacle Airlines Inc., Universal Jet Training Center LLC and Bradley Mark Ottosen.
Representing six plaintiffs in a second complaint, lead plaintiff Debbie Haas sued Jet University, Pinnacle Airlines, Sallie Mae Bank, Sallie Mae Inc., SLM Financial Corp., University Jet Training Center LLC and Bradley Mark Ottosen.
In the third complaint, Steve Omick and Joshua Wulff sued Jet University, Simcenter Inc., Wells Fargo Bank, Wachovia Bank of Delaware, Universal Jet Training Center LLC, Henry George and Bradley Mark Ottosen.
All seek return of their tuition and punitive damages for conspiracy, unfair and deceptive trade, negligent misrepresentation, and other charges.
All are represented by Robert Parks of Coral Gables.