Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
Division of Consumer Affairs
Reni Erdos, Director
For Immediate Release:
December 8, 2004
For Further Information Contact:
Genene Morris, Jeff Lamm (973) 504-6327
Attorney General Sues Vocational School and Owners
For Fraud Alleging they Operated Unlicensed Nursing Program
NEWARK — Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced the filing of a lawsuit against an Essex County vocational school and its owners alleging they unlawfully operated an unlicensed nursing program. The defendants allegedly charged students $5,025 to enroll and repeatedly made misrepresentations to the students about their eligibility to sit for a national nursing exam and become licensed practical nurses upon their completion of the program.
"Students who sought to be nurses paid their money and spent countless hours studying, only to learn that they were not eligible to take the licensing exam because Comtrain’s program was not approved. These defendants obtained tuition payments under false pretenses and must reimburse these students who were on the path to a new and meaningful career," Attorney General Harvey said.
"The law is simple: It is unlawful to run a school for practical nursing unless you have approval from the State Board of Nursing," Director Erdos said. "These defendants not only ignored the law, but also made misrepresentations to students who now must start over and complete a program approved by the Board to qualify for licensure."
The suit, filed by Attorney General Harvey, Consumer Affairs Director Reni Erdos and the New Jersey State Board of Nursing (the "Board"), names as defendants:
The State’s 10-count complaint, filed in Essex County Superior Court, alleges that the defendants violated the State’s Consumer Fraud Act and Nurse Practice Act while operating a practical nursing program. Comtrain is licensed by the State Department of Education to provide private vocational education services in the areas of, among other things, mortgage lending, Microsoft applications, networking, A+ certification, keyboarding, Microsoft applications program, paralegal, MCSE A+, CCNA diploma, A+ computer repair, medical billing and accounting.
The complaint alleges, however, that Comtrain is not authorized by the Board to operate a practical nursing program. State law requires nursing programs to seek approval from the Board at least eight months prior to the program’s establishment. Despite this fact, the complaint alleges, the defendants expanded Comtrain’s curriculum to include a practical nursing program and, in July 2003, began enrolling students and charging them $5,025 in tuition and registration fees, the complaint alleges. Classes commenced on Sept. 3, 2003.
Deputy Attorneys General Brian M. Brennan and Ginger R. Provost of the Division of Law are handling this case for the State and the Board, respectively.
The complaint alleges that the defendants repeatedly made misrepresentations to students. For example, the defendants allegedly told students that the program was approved or close to being approved by the Board of Nursing. In fact, the defendants hadn’t sought the Board’s approval until 15 days after the start of classes in September 2003, and the Board, citing deficiencies, denied the initial application and two others submitted by the defendants over a one-year period.
The defendants allegedly told students that upon completion of the program, they would be eligible to take the practical nursing licensing examination, the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses ("NCLEX-PN"). In reality, candidates must complete a Board-approved program to be eligible to sit for the examination. The complaint alleges that rather than telling the students the truth about their inability to obtain approval from the Board and explaining that the students would not be able to sit for NCLEX-PN or become licensed, the defendants sent letters to students stating that they were close to obtaining Board approval. Even after the defendants finally sent a letter telling students that the program had not obtained Board approval and that they would not be able to sit for the NCLEX-PN, they falsely suggested to students that classes they already completed would be applied toward their eligibility to become a licensed practical nurse and would not have to be repeated, the complaint alleges.
In addition, the complaint alleges, during the application process, the defendants represented to the Board that they had not been teaching a practical nursing course, when in truth they had set the curriculum, hired teachers, enrolled students and taught classes that included practical nursing skills. To date, the program has failed to obtain approval from the Board.
In addition to seeking restitution, the State’s suit seeks an order enjoining the defendants from engaging in further actions that violate the Consumer Fraud Act and requiring the defendants to pay civil monetary penalties, investigative costs and attorneys’ fees.
Students who have been affected by the defendants’ alleged activities may contact Consumer Affairs’ Consumer Service Center at 800-242-5846 (if calling from within the State of New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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