Report: #169922

Complaint Review: Harrison Career Institute Aka HCI

  • Submitted: Sat, December 31, 2005
  • Updated: Sat, December 31, 2005
  • Reported By: Franklinville New Jersey
  • Harrison Career Institute Aka HCI
    Mt Ephram Road, Voorhees - Coporate Offices

Harrison Career Institute Aka HCI Harrison Career Institute in Federal Court on a $65 Million Case. Forging signatures documentation, fraud, unqualified and non existent staff and the Okay to do it all from HCI president. Quotes from Federal Court Transcripts From Trial enclosed. Philadelphia, Allentown, Vineland, Deptford, Delran, Wilimington NJ, PA, DE DC, CA, Nationwide

*Author of original report: HCI Fraud Case Opens Testimony of allegations of Cutting and Pasting Signatures of Students to get Feds Cash! Fraud Case Reveals DOE noticed HCI was gettin' too much cash all of a sudden - HCI's own tpractices get them investigated....

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Student travails hit home
Friday, December 16, 2005

Courier-Post Staff

The voices of Harrison Career Institute students and employees were heard this week as the U. S. Department of Education opened its case against the school which is charged by the government with cheating students and committing financial student aid fraud.

The witnesses told the court about problems with student loans, irregularities with student testing, and pressure on employees to enroll students and sign them up for financial aid.

Students also said they had problems getting the educational services that they contracted to receive, and even problems with dropping out of school.

Harrison, also known as HCI, has its corporate headquarters in Voorhees and operates 13 career schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The private, for-profit school enrolls about 4,000 students per year and receives $25 million in federal financial aid annually.

The following are snapshots of testimony presented this week in court, here, by former students and employees.

Tina Hines, who enrolled at HCI's Philadelphia campus but never attended a day of class, is receiving letters to repay a student loan for an entire course.

Hines, who does not have a high school diploma or a GED, further testified that a school employee gave her answers to a preadmission test called the "ability to benefit test," also known as ABT. The federal government requires certain students to pass the test if they are applying for federal financial aid.

South Orange student Atiya Conover said she received a grade of "90" for an externship that she never worked. A vital part of students' educational programs, externships enable them to practice their classroom skills in the work place and find jobs after graduation. Conover said she repeatedly asked for an externship, but HCI suggested she find one herself. HCI was supposed to place the student as part of her enrollment contract.

"Were students ever graduated without externships?" asked Denise Morelli. Morelli, who is attorney for the Department of Education, was addressing John Smith, former director of education at HCI's Philadelphia campus.

"Yes," said Smith.

"Who told you (to do that)?" asked Morelli.

"That came from corporate . . . (HCI President) Jim Mannion," said Smith. Smith also said that the dropout rate in Philadelphia was 50 percent.

Smith complained to corporate about the lack of simple educational supplies, such as latex gloves for students enrolled in medical-related courses. "I had to go into my own pocket so the instructor could go around the corner to Rite-Aid for gloves for the phlebotomy class," he said.

"The stuff that we needed to learn how to do IV insertions, they didn't have," testified former practical nursing student Dorothy Marie Webb, who attended HCI in Philadelphia.

Atiya Conover, who attended class in South Orange, said her school provided no computers for students who were learning how to process medical billing.

Conover's mother, Verna Conover, another student in South Orange, said her classmates and instructors would go begging for medical supplies, such as alcohol pads, and even surgical instruments. They tried to get the materials from friends and relatives who worked in hospitals and medical offices.

Student Dorothy Marie Webb testified that she and her classmates in Philadelphia complained to the Pennsylvania Board of Nursing when HCI said part of their course would be "self-taught." Students were upset that their class, which cost $10,000, went two months without a teacher.

Webb also said students were not helped with job placement as the school contracted with them to do. "I was told that since I was taking practical nursing that my phone should be ringing off the hook," said Webb. "But when the time came to apply for a job -- nothing," she said.

When students went to look for jobs, Webb said they were told to register with Legal Medical Staffing, a temporary placement company which occupies space in the HCI corporate office building, Voorhees. Students who worked with LMS were promised by HCI corporate officers to receive certain concessions on their student loans.

Webb also testified that she is getting letters to repay an Access Loan. Access is another company owned by HCI owner Harrison Commisso. Webb testified she never applied for an Access Loan.

Webb was challenged by HCI attorney Steve Gombos about why she refused to cooperate with an HCI private investigator named Elliott.

"Did anyone from the DOE officials tell you not to speak to him?" asked Gombos.

"No," said Webb, who said she heard Elliott was using aggressive tactics to gather information from witnesses, such as trying to force his way through doors.

"I'm a victim of domestic violence. If that man forced my door, I would have beat his brains out," said Webb.

"Did you tell Mr. Elliott that you were directed by someone from the Department of Education not to speak with him?"

"No," said Webb.

"Your honor, I don't believe her," said Gombos.

Franklinville, New Jersey
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HCI fraud case gets under way
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Courier-Post Staff

A former employee of Harrison Career Institute testified school workers were told by a superior to make up income figures on student financial aid applications, to re-create student aid forms to replace those that had been lost and to copy student signatures on new documents.

Greg White, a former financial aid officer at HCI, said the school's internal auditor, Carla Waltman, directed employees to participate in questionable activities in the school's financial aid office.

White testified in federal court here Tuesday on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education.

The department accuses the school, also known as HCI, of fraud and wants to remove the Voorhees-based school from participation in federal financial aid programs. HCI, which operates 13 campuses in three states, receives approximately $25 million in federal student aid funding per year.

HCI has denied the allegations.

In questioning by Department of Education attorney Denise Morelli, White said Waltman directed personnel to change the dates on withdrawal records to show that students attended HCI longer than they actually did. The practice benefited HCI, White said, because the school could keep more student federal financial aid money and refund less to the Department of Education.

White, who worked at the school for four years before resigning in August 2004, said he followed Waltman's directions for fear of losing his job.

During testimony, he told how employees re-created student signatures on financial aid papers by tracing them from other documents and by cutting and pasting copies of signatures from other records.

He also said employees were encouraged to fill in empty blanks on student aid applications although federal regulation requires students to complete and sign applications themselves.

The former worker said he came to HCI with no previous financial aid experience and that he received no formal training at HCI.

During cross-examination, HCI's defense attorney, Steve Gombos, cast doubt on White's truthfulness. Gombos asked White if he was cooperating as a government witness because he was being offered immunity in a pending case connected to a confidential law enforcement investigation.

White denied that.

Gombos also implied that HCI threatened to report White to federal authorities for "coaching" students on their financial aid applications.

White also denied that.

Earlier in the day, Patricia Edelson, a senior institutional review specialist with the Department of Education, spent four hours on the stand. She testified about the department's investigation of HCI and its student financial aid practices dating back three years.

The department's investigative team, which came to the school unannounced, gathered 700 student files representing students attending five of the school's campuses. Of 160 students who were located and interviewed by the team, 104 statements were taken from students on suspected fraudulent financial aid activities, according to Edelson.

The special investigation was triggered, Edelson said, in May 2004 when the Department of Education noticed that HCI was receiving a sharp increase in funding.

Testimony continues today before U.S. Department of Education administrative Judge Ernest C. Canellos

The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development has an informational Web site for students of Harrison Career Institute. Some students and employees fear that HCI may close as a result of government allegations that HCI mishandled federal student loans.

Students may visit for suggestions, information and answers to frequently asked questions about repaying loans, course completion and HCI graduation.

Students are asked to use a link on the Web site to e-mail additional questions.
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