WWASPS BACK IN
25 Parents File Class-Action Law Suit Alleging Fraudulent Tactics
Syracuse, NY (July
28, 2006) Attorney Christopher Todd, one of the three prominent New
York class-action attorneys with the Hancock & Estabrook, LLP, law
firm confirmed in a telephone conversation today that their firm
filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday, July 25, 2006, on behalf of
defendants fraudulently advertised Ivy Ridge Academy as an
accredited boarding school licensed to issue credits and diplomas to
its students. Among defendants named in the lawsuit are Robert
Lichfield, owner of Ivy Ridge property; Partners Jason Finlinson and
Alyn Mitchell; World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and
Schools (WWASPS); their Marketing Agents, including Lifeline Family
Services, Inc.; and Premier Educational Systems, LLC, in charge of
promoting and advertising their programs’ educational component.
alleges that marketing entities use aggressive and fraudulent
tactics to prey upon parents … to funnel those parents to WWASPS.
Web marketing operated by these firms have self-evaluated forms
where as little as 2 out of 35 choices leads to “moderate risk”,
“call immediately”, and where 5 out of 35 on one website led to
“high risk”, “call ASAP.”
these marketing firms inquiring about legitimate boarding and
military schools were led to WWASPS programs. They promised to teach
integrity, values, honor, accountability, and respect for authority.
materials featured idyllic and modern facilities and promised that
all “schools” were “fully accredited” and would be eligible to
receive a “high school diploma.”
alleged Robert Lichfield used his personal connections with David
Steadman, an Officer and Director with Defendant Northwest
Association of Schools and Colleges and Universities, Inc., and
others at Northwest, to ensure all WWASPS-affiliated facilities
could claim they were affiliated with Northwest without complying
with accrediting requirements.
blindly permitted WWASPS-affiliated schools to claim accreditation
even though those schools were not meeting Northwest’s own standards
and by-laws and even though some or all of the institutions
(including Ivy Ridge) were neither licensed by the appropriate state
agencies nor complying with state requirements and standards for
degree granting educational institutions.
It was allegedly
Robert Lichfield who purchased the former Mater Dei Junior College
near Ogdensburg, New York. Jason Finlinson, Alyn Mitchell, and
Joseph Mitchell formed two corporations – Jason G. Finlinson Corp.
and the Alyn and Joseph Mitchell Corp. – to form the partnership.
They then opened and operated Ivy Ridge at the Mater Dei site but,
according to the Complaint, failed to operate under the laws of the
State of New York.
In order for New
York schools to issue Diplomas they must first apply and receive a
Certificate of High School Registration from the New York Board of
Regents, which allegedly Ivy Ridge never did. Instead they allegedly
advertised immediately that their students would be eligible to
receive high school diplomas. Premier Educational Systems, LLC, was
in charge of promoting and advertising their programs’ educational
component. However, Premier is not authorized to offer educational
credits or award high school diplomas in New York. Before they
accepted Ivy Ridge as a candidate member they should have confirmed
its status with governing agencies.
the information they provided was “completely truthful and ethical”.
But in fact the Complaint states Ivy Ridge was not even eligible to
apply for candidacy because it had been open less than two years.
Ivy Ridge allegedly
continued to be falsely promoted as an accredited school. Parents
chose to send their children there based on its promise Ivy Ridge
was an accredited program. Children who went through their programs
received high school credits, some received diplomas. None of the
“diplomas” issued by Ivy Ridge were valid high school diplomas
recognized by any state or governmental entity. None of the credits
earned were valid educational credits recognized by the State of New
It is alleged that
in or around early 2005 the New York State Attorney General’s office
began an investigation into Ivy Ridge’s business practices. Ivy
Ridge settled a claim with the Attorney General by executing an
Assurance of Discontinuance requiring Ivy Ridge to “cease
advertising that Ivy Ridge had a diploma granting entity.” However,
as of last December websites operated by WWASPS and Ivy
Ridge-affiliated entities were still advertising that Ivy Ridge
issued diplomas. They were in direct violation of the Assurance of
It is further
alleged that defendants devised a scheme to defraud the plaintiffs
by obtaining money and property from them by means of false and
fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises. Parents paid
monthly tuition payments ranging from approximately $2,900 to
Ivy Ridge allegedly
certified to educational lending institutions, including Sallie Mae
and Key Bank, that Ivy Ridge was a licensed and accredited private
boarding high school authorized by the State of New York to issue
diplomas. This was done for the purpose of enabling parents to
qualify for restricted educational loans to pay their tuition.
While the New York
Attorney General’s investigation was ongoing, Ivy Ridge allegedly
misrepresented to parents that their accreditation was merely “on
hold” and/or that there was a minor “error in the paperwork.”
Despite the fact it had never been licensed or accredited.
alleged they were misrepresented and led to believe Ivy Ridge was
licensed and authorized by the State of New York to award junior and
high school credits and/or diplomas. Each plaintiff claims they were
damaged as a direct result and they are entitled to be compensated
to the fullest extent permitted by law. Had they known the truth,
they would not have entered into the Enrollment Agreement or spent
exorbitant amounts of money on tuition and incidentals.
states that as a result of the wrongful, malicious, and illegal acts
of the defendants, plaintiffs are entitled to recover from
defendants no less than $100,000,000. Plaintiffs are seeking a jury
contained herein is based on the Dungan, et al. v. The Academy of
Ivy Ridge, et al. Complaint filed July 25, 2006, with the United
States District Court Northern District of New York.