We recently posted about the sudden shutting down of the flight school, American School of Aviation, based in Atwater, California, that left over 100 international enrolled students stranded and without a house. It turns out the students, many of whom are from India, had paid $40,000 upfront for the 10-month course.
Mainstream papers in the US haven’t covered this story, barring two articles in the Merced Sun-Star, one on June 20th when the school virtually went on sale and another one on 26th June before the students were evicted.
Lisa Tsering of India-West has covered the story in detail, including charges such as a lapsed insurance policy, the absence of a business license and eight violation charges levied against the school by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). An FBI investigation for fraud is currently underway.
The American School of Aviation, founded by Manpreet “Prince” Singh and his wife, Reny Kozman, ceased operations last week after months-long troubles that included a lawsuit for unpaid fuel bills, a state code violation for insufficient insurance, at least eight violations imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration and an unpaid utility bill leading to the eviction of the students from the former Air Force barracks where they’d been housed.
“I can’t do miracles,” Kozman told India-West by phone June 27. “We’re downsizing big-time. These kids have gotta grow up. I can’t solve everyone’s problems.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has started an inquiry into whether the school’s owners were committing fraud, a representative from the Merced County District Attorney’s office told India-West June 30.
“The owner of the school is here on a Green Card from India,” said Merced County Deputy District Attorney Walter Wall. “So it raises international issues.” A call to the FBI public relations officer in Sacramento was not returned by press time. <snip>
County officials grounded ASA’s flights in May because the school’s insurance policy had lapsed, and city officials accused the school of operating without a business license.
More about the ASA from the article:
ASA claimed to have an arrangement with Kingfisher Airlines in which its students would have first priority for hiring interviews, said one of the students (a representative from Kingfisher’s head office in India did not reply to an email for confirmation). <snip>
ASA started operating in Atwater in 2005 although it was founded in 2002 by Singh, who claims on the school’s Web site that it has graduated over 300 students. The site also says that the school owns a fleet of 50 aircraft.
While Singh has been missing in action Kozman has been handling the students and the press.
The Sun-Star quoted Kozman as saying that ASA’s money problems were caused by dishonest employees in India, who stole student deposits and $140,000 in tuition. Kozman also said the arrangement with Kingfisher Airlines had been cancelled with no explanation.
In her remarks to India-West, Kozman didn’t mention where the money had gone, and only said, “I have very little money left. We’re cutting down our expenses.”
While some students are hopeful of the school restarting on July 15th, as promised by Kozman, others are wondering if they’ll be refunded the money they paid for the unfinished course. Fortunately for them, the Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Virginia Kice has said they are under no pressure to leave the country upon expiration of their visas.
Typically, when a school closes, international students are given a five-month grace period in which to find a similar, accredited school where they can complete their studies. But in ASA’s case, the school closed virtually without notice.
“The ICE is working with the State Department and authorities in India,” she said. “We are trying to find other schools with a comparable curriculum at a comparable cost.”
The school website, complete with testimonials from instructors, students and from Prince Singh himself, continues to invite students and overseas students continue to come in, says Ashok Kumar Sinha, consul for community affairs at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco. However the students, local guardians, or the Consulate aren't planning on filing a law suit, in the absence of which, the Singh couple would've escaped scot-free.
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