SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Dozens of Thai families say they lost $600,000 when they signed up their children for a foreign exchange program that doesn’t exist. The people who run Advance Cultural Education Training Corp. and Paragon Scholarship Funding created the bogus companies to bilk Thai families who want their children to attend high school in the United States, according to the federal complaint.
Plaintiffs International Education Inc. and I.E.I. Co. Ltd., representatives of the parents, say Napat Vorapuvadol and two other defendants lied to them about the so-called high school exchange program. IEI says Paragon is a fictitious organization Vorapuvadol created to siphon money from unsuspecting victims.
IEI says Vorapuvadol sent false documents misrepresenting Paragon as a legitimate organization that “would be a more suitable business partner for IEI in the efforts to place Thai students in American exchange programs.”
IEI says it unwittingly entered into an agreement with Paragon, wherein Paragon would collect fees from IEI for placement services. Vorapuvadol also created Advance Cultural Education and Training Corp., another false organization masquerading as a foreign exchange program that Vorapuvadol said would handle students placed in Minnesota, according to the complaint.
Paragon “also contacted some parents and had them wire money directly to their personal bank accounts,” IEI’s attorney Karl Kronenberger said in an interview.
According to the complaint, IEI uncovered the fraudulent scheme while investigating complaints about Paragon.
“IEI is trying to get these accounts frozen and get this money back to the parents, but the defendants are trying to find ways to get out of repaying the money,” Kronenberger said.
The complaint states that several dozen families have been affected, all of them clients of IEI, “who have paid that money to have their children participate in exchange programs in the United States, which obviously will not happen because the programs which defendants induced IEI to participate in never existed in the first place.”
Kronenberger said Vorapuvadol is under criminal investigation by the Thai Royal Police, he expects that a warrant will be issued for her arrest.
IEI demands that Vorapuvadol return the $600,000 she and her cronies allegedly embezzled from IEI and its clients.
“We are just trying to get the money back for the parents,” said Kronenberger.
IEI is represented by Karl Kronenberger and James Weixel Jr. with Kronenberger Burgoyne.