It’s a well-known maxim in advertising that “sex sells,” and according to the federal government, one for-profit college in Florida took that lesson to heart. In a new lawsuit, now-defunct FastTrain College in Florida is accused of hiring strippers as admissions representatives in order to draw students to its classes.
The allegation comes after the federal government and Florida’s attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against FastTrain. The school once operated seven campuses across the state of Florida, but abruptly closed its doors in 2012 after being raided by the FBI. Last October, an indictment was announced against owner Alejandro Amor and three admissions officers, accusing them of forging documents and encouraging students to lie in order to bilk the government out of student loan funds.
Now, the civil lawsuit adds new allegations that take what was already a lurid case in an increasingly bizarre direction.
According to the lawsuit, FastTrain hired “attractive women and sometimes exotic dancers and encouraged them to dress provocatively while they recruited young men in neighborhoods to attend FastTrain.” This wasn’t simply a matter of aesthetics, the government says, but part of a concerted effort to conceal material information about the school from potential students.
Not all of FastTrain’s recruiting practices were so easy on the eye. The school is also accused of using other aggressive tactics, such as bombarding potential students with phone calls and offering students several hundred dollars if they could successfully recruit others to begin attending.
The list of FastTrain’s other supposed misdeeds runs long. Some students without high school diplomas were allegedly induced to pay hundreds of dollars to an admissions representative who then forged fake ones, which were then used to dupe the government into granting millions in illicit student loans and Pell Grants. Others were allegedly coached to lie on federal financial aid forms, or even had their forms fabricated by school representatives entirely. While the school would supposedly do almost anything to get bodies through the front door, it would also do little to keep them there; the lawsuit also accuses FastTrain of forging attendance records for students who stopped attending classes (or in some cases, never even started).
Florida and the U.S. government say that FastTrain’s only true goal was to credibly fabricate as large a student population as possible, so that the school could then capitalize on a steady stream of federal money. The lawsuit says FastTrain’s total theft exceeds $6.5 million.
FastTrain’s success paid for a lavish lifestyle for Amor, who owned a 50-foot yacht and a private aircraft prior to the company’s rapid downfall. The company was also politically connected. Just months before its collapse, Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, a major supporter of for-profit colleges, delivered the commencement address at one of the school’s campuses. Hastings also had a scholarship named after him by the school.
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