He said, they said

The legal sparring between a for-profit college and a disgruntled local student is likely headed for a jury trial in the spring.Last month, a laid-off call center worker alleged that Centura College and the Virginia Beach-based corporate entity that runs the for-profit school repeatedly committed fraud by telling him the school’s Richmond campus had accreditation it did not actually have.

The plaintiff, Corey Lewis, sought retraining assistance through the Workforce Reinvestment Act. He alleges the school lied about its WIA certification at the Richmond campus, which he claims would have let him be reimbursed for some of his tuition.

Lewis claims the school advertised in its course catalog and on its website that the Richmond campus was WIA-certified. He also alleges that school representatives told him it was WIA-approved.

Now the case it turning into a he-said, she-said.

Centura’s camp filed its response to the claims this week, denying that a school admissions representative told Lewis the Richmond campus was WIA-approved. Centura also denies that Lewis was told by WIA that his reimbursement would not be granted because the Richmond campus was ineligible. Additionally, the school denies that it repeatedly told Lewis the situation was being resolved.

“The educational institution now known as Centura and formerly known as Beta Tech was recognized by the Commonwealth of Virginia as an approved WIA provider at the time [Centura’s] website and written materials were prepared,” the school and its corporate owner Employment Services Inc. argued in their response to the suit.

But Lewis’s attorney, James Towey of Saunders, Patterson & Mack, argues that Centura’s response only further serves to prove his client’s case that the school lied to Lewis about its WIA credentials at the time he inquired about enrollment.

“They kind of shined a spotlight that those statements weren’t true when they were represented to the plaintiff,” said Towey. “I’m sure it was true when [the catalogue and website] were written. Our whole case is that it was untrue when it was told to him.”

Read a BizSense report about the initial case here. https://richmondbizsense.com/2010/09/22/student-says-for-profit-school-lied-about-credentials/

Towey argues that the school chose a lackadaisical approach because for-profit schools are booming, attracting out-of-work adults seeking retraining.

“A lot of these new schools have only sprouted up when the economy turned bad or increased their number of campuses by using the bad economy to their advantage,” Towey said.

“Although these schools can provide new skills, students have to be mindful that these schools are businesses and they are also interested principally in making money.”

ESI also owns and operates other for-profit schools, including Aviation Institute of Maintenance and Centura Institute in Orlando.

Towey said his client is not just some unemployed guy looking for an easy buck.

“People have to remember he lost money on this. This is someone who paid tuition. This is not someone who had a trip-and-all and says ‘woe is me, I need some money.’ He’s not someone who was there looking for a handout.”

Centura’s attorney, Robert Barry of Kaufman & Canoles in Norfolk, did not return a call by press time.

Towey said the case is likely headed for a jury trial sometime in the spring. He said he is unsure about whether there’s a chance the case might be settled out of court.

Michael Schwartz is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected].

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