Class action: Sanford Brown students duped into med assistant program

Steve Gonzalez Feb. 13, 2008, 1:43am

Sanford Brown in Collinsville

Four area nursing students filed a class action suit against Sanford Brown College and Career Education Corp., alleging the defendants fraudulently induced them and the class to join a medical assistant program through a number of deceptive acts.

According to the complaint filed Feb. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court, Jenna Lilley, Jessica Lilley, Candace Lindsay and Ashley Cunningham are four women "who share the goal of becoming registered nurses."

They claim they were aware that they needed to take prerequisite courses in order to attend an accredited institution and inquired with Sanford Brown to see if the medical assistant program would fulfill the prerequisite requirements for a nursing program.

"None of the four putative class representatives had any interest in taking the medical assistant program to become a medical assistant," the complaint states. "They saw the medical assistant program as a stepping-stone to becoming a registered nurse."

Jenna Lilley claims she met with an admissions representative at Sanford Brown in Collinsville and was told that the credits from the medical assistant program would transfer to any accredited registered nurse program in the area, including Washington University.

She claims that based on that information, she enrolled in the medical assistant program and borrowed $18,000 in financial aide.

She claims it was only after she had committed her time and finances to Sanford Brown that she found out she had been defrauded.

"No Registered Nurse program in the area, including Washington University, accepts the credits accrued from Sanford Brown's Medical Assistant program," the complaint states.

She is now enrolled at Lewis and Clark College, but was unable to obtain financial assistance because Sanford Brown "swindled" money from her, according to the complaint.

Jessica Lilley and Candace Lindsey also have similar allegations.

Ashley Cunningham, in addition, claims the admissions representative prohibited her from meeting with financial aide people until she had committed herself to attend Sanford Brown.

Cunningham claims that once she discovered she had been defrauded she attempted to leave the college but was told she was locked into her payment plan and would owe the money regardless if she attended.

She claims she did leave Sanford Brown and no longer has the resources to pursue her dream to become a nurse. She also alleges the college continues to harass her into paying the "fraudulently obtained tuition payments" and now has incurred interest charges and threats to her credit rating.

The plaintiffs claim the admissions representatives at Sanford Brown told them:

  • The tuition to attend Sanford Brown and obtain a medical assistant certificate was fixed, however students were forced to pay twice for classes they failed;

  • The instructors had real-world experience and were otherwise well-qualified, however the majority of the instructors were themselves graduates of Sanford Brown, with little or no real-world experience.

  • The students would be provided with the most up-to-date training aids and equipment but much of the perishable equipment provided was past its expiration date;

  • The students would be placed in an actual doctor's office, however Sanford Brown was unable to place students in externships; and the students that were placed were assigned as a secretary or receptionist, not a medical assistant; and

  • That there was a high demand for medical assistants, however the field is well staffed and doctors do not hire students from Sanford Brown because they are not properly trained.

    According to the complaint, Sanford Brown violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act by engaging in conduct that creates a likelihood of confusion or misunderstanding.

    The plaintiffs claim they suffered actual damages by Sanford Brown's deceptive practices by the payment of fraudulently obtained tuition, by the payment for textbooks which were of no use, being overcharged for equipment and medical aides, being forced to purchase items from the school and exhausting federal aide available to them making it impossible to pursue a legitimate degree.

    "Plaintiffs and class members would not have sustained the damages but for the defendants deceptive practices in fraudulently inducing them to enroll in the medical assistant program," the complaint states.

    According to the complaint, all persons who attended Sanford Brown in Collinsville and enrolled in the medical assistant program are eligible to join the class.

    The plaintiffs and class are seeking a judgment for:

  • Compensatory, consequential, and incidental damages;

  • General damages, including emotional distress in amount to be proved at trial;

  • Disgorgement and restitution of all monies converted, taken or appropriated by Sanford Brown; and

  • Prejudgment interest, attorney fees and costs of the suit.

    The plaintiffs are represented by John Carey, David Bauman and Corey Sullivan of Carey & Danis in St. Louis.

    Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis has yet to assign the case.

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