- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Federal and state officials in California have shut down an unaccredited private high school whose error-filled curriculum led the state’s attorney general to file a lawsuit saying the school defrauded students by issuing “worthless” diplomas.

The California Alternative High School (CAHS) also is under investigation for consumer fraud in four of 12 states where it operates, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said in court documents arguing for a temporary restraining order against the school last week.

The school’s 10-week, 30-hour course teaches students — most of whom are Hispanic immigrants — that “the United States has 53 states and that the flag has not been updated to reflect the additional three states,” according to the attorney general’s filings in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The school’s 54-page workbook says “that the U.S. government has four branches — executive, legislative, judicial and administrative,” Mr. Lockyer said in his filings.

A teacher told students “that the Treasury falls under the administrative branch, but she told students that the administrative branch is not ‘that important and one doesn’t hear much about it because it works behind the scenes,’” stated an affidavit by Edith Garcia, a Los Angeles County undercover consumer protection investigator.

The teacher told students “that Congress is composed of the Senate and the House, one for the Republicans and the other for the Democrats, respectively,” the affidavit states.

The school’s workbook contains misspellings and factual errors, including that World War II began in 1938 and ended in 1942.

Students also are instructed to “read the book ‘Death of a Traveling Salesman’ and write a commentary.”

Mr. Lockyer filed a consumer protection lawsuit that accused the school of falsely claiming to be accredited by state and federal governments and telling students that their CAHS diplomas “will help them win admission to college, obtain financial aid and get a higher paying job.”

The school, which says it has 77 locations nationwide (some operating out of churches), charges students $450 to $1,450 for 10 three-hour class sessions, a commencement ceremony and a “worthless” high school diploma, Mr. Lockyer said.

“This scam is especially disturbing because it exploits immigrants trying to improve their lives and the lives of their families through education,” the attorney general said. “What’s worse, these rip-off artists have cloaked their con in religious faith and duped well-meaning clergy and their congregations.”

The state lawsuit accuses CAHS owner and principal Daniel A.D. Gossai of Rancho Palos Verdes, his wife, Janet, and five other defendants with conspiracy and consumer fraud. The lawsuit seeks full restitution for victims, at least $32 million in civil penalties and a permanent order against illegal business practices.

The CAHS operation also is under investigation for consumer fraud in Indiana and in Iowa and Nebraska, where judges have ordered the school to stop enrolling students.

Mr. Gossai, 53, a native of British Guyana, and his attorney, Scott S. Furstman of Redondo Beach, Calif., did not respond to telephone messages yesterday.

Mr. Gossai said he has a doctorate in economics from Pacific States University in Los Angeles, but the university said he did not earn a doctorate there, according to the Ventura County Star.

In an interview with the newspaper, Mr. Gossai denied any wrongdoing.

“No one can point us to a law we’ve violated and there are hundreds of unaccredited schools throughout the country,” he said. “For generations this [Hispanic] race has been laboring in poverty. I know what suffering is. I know what it is to be hungry … My mission is from God, to help the Hispanic people.”

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