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Job-Hunting Seminars Lead to New York Lawsuit

George Pyle | The Buffalo News via YellowBrix

December 15, 2009

The New York attorney general’s office is inviting anyone who spent $1,000 for a particular training package sold as a sure route to a high-paying government job to become part of its lawsuit against the company that sold the allegedly phony promises.

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday announced that his office has filed suit against the New Jerseybased State National Training Service Inc., seeking restitution for customers and a ban on any efforts to collect payments from past customers.

Anyone who thinks they were a victim of the alleged scam, tied to seminars in 2007 and 2008 in Niagara Falls and Olean, is asked to contact the attorney general’s Poughkeepsie regional office at (845) 485-3900 and register to be part of the action.

“This company tried to capitalize on the economic crisis with lies, exploiting New York’s job hunters with false promises that did no more than bolster the company’s own bottom line,” Cuomo said.

Company officials could not be reached to comment Monday.

Cuomo’s suit charges, among other things, that those selling the training materials misrepresented themselves as government employees, falsely claimed that the cost of the course would be reimbursed by unemployment offices or social service agencies, and denied customers the legally required right to cancel their purchases in a reasonable time for full refunds.

The suit names State National Training Service and its principals, Michael Bell Jr. and Michael Bell III. It charges that the company and its representatives engaged in a pattern of misrepresentation in more than 30 seminars across the state between March 2007 and April 2008. The seminars, advertised as a program administered by a company called Law Enforcement Career Development Inc., were allegedly held in Niagara Falls on July 23, 2007, and April 15, 2008, and in Olean on March 19, 2007.

According to the suit, print ads lured customers to the seminars by suggesting that jobs paying up to $20 an hour would be easily obtained by those attending 90-minute orientation sessions. Once there, those in attendance heard a high-pressure sales pitch for a training course and the suggestion that completing the course would guarantee a passing score on federal civil service exams, leading to jobs that paid more than $60,000 a year.

What the salesmen didn’t say, the lawsuit alleges, is that even those who pass a civil service exam are not guaranteed government employment. The salesmen also pressured would-be customers into buying the training package on the spot, with no chance to consider the claims or establish whether the promised reimbursement was really available. Customers who tried to exercise their legal right to cancel the contract found it difficult, and expensive, to do so, the suit maintains.

Cuomo is asking the State Supreme Court in Dutchess County to order that State National Training Service halt all business in New York unless it first posts a $300,000 performance bond and that it pay costs and penalties to the state.

gpyle@buffnews.com ">e-mail: gpyle@buffnews.com


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