Wednesday, January 26

Justice condemns the owner of a competitive examination academy that took more than 30,000 euros from his students

The owner of a Bilbao teaching academy has been sentenced to a year and a half in prison for closing by surprise and leaving hundreds of students in the lurch in 2014. The Supreme Court has just confirmed his prison sentence as well as the obligation to return more than 30,000 euros to several dozen students who went to court to claim what they had paid in advance. The academy was called Continuing Professional Training and it was not the first to leave dozens of students and opponents stranded, closing down without warning.

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This academy opened its doors in 2010 at number 77 Calle Licenciado Poza in Bilbao. But three years later its owner already warned that the business was not viable and continued to accept students despite knowing that he did not have the money to continue. Some months later, in July 2014, a sign appeared on the door of the academy announcing that they closed during the summer months. The academy never opened and the first calculations spoke of hundreds of affected students.

Several dozen of them decided to take AVF, owner of the academy, to court. Before the Audience of Bizkaia, each one told their case: they studied to become a nursing assistant, a veterinarian, to enter the Ertzaintza, the National Police or Penitentiary Institutions, to be teachers or also social educators. All had paid amounts ranging between 150 and 1,900 euros. Some did not receive the title, others did not finish the classes and did not appear for the exams and many complained that “the syllabus was not up to date” in some specialties.

The result is a firm sentence of a year and a half in prison for the owner of the academy for a continuing crime of fraud, which was established by the Provincial Court of Bizkaia after an agreement between the parties. The Prosecutor’s Office had come to ask for three years in prison and the private accusation, exercised by the lawyer Ángel Gaminde on behalf of several affected, up to eight years in prison. The sentence has just been confirmed by the Supreme Court, dismissing the fraudster’s appeal against his sentence to return all the money to a total of 29 injured parties.

The criminal judges, with Javier Hernández as rapporteur, qualify his appeal as “pretensional miscellany” and explain that there is no doubt about the proven facts that he himself assumed nor about the money that he must pay to almost three dozen students to the ones he left stranded overnight. The magistrates understand that the amounts defrauded to each student were not an arbitrary calculation, but arisen “from the different testimonies that affirmed the deliveries and their amounts, corroborated, in addition, by the different documents provided.”

The sentence of a year and a half in prison does not imply his entry into jail, but he is obliged to return all the money to the 29 students who took him to the bench, in addition to the interest that has been generated in all this time. You must also pay a fine of 720 euros.

One of the cases that the Justice has firmly sentenced is that of Aroa, who signed up to this academy to study thanatoesthetics and one day he found himself, he tells, with “one hand in front and the other behind.” From the outset, he says, Licenciado Poza’s academy “didn’t like it at all, it was very dirty, old, neglected.” One day after work, he found “200 WhatsApp messages and I feared the worst.” A worker from the academy began to contact the students and warned of what was going to happen.

In his particular case, due to the specialty he was studying, the academy acted as an intermediary with an academy in Galicia and, according to the complaint, his money never arrived. “He did not pay the Galician academy, that academy demanded the money from me,” he says. Aroa explains that by then he had paid more than 2,000 euros, of which he has recovered half, and that the experience “was a disappointment … one day I find that they chapan, I had paid the entire course and I find a hand front and one behind “. Several affected followed the condemned man to try to recover their money and ended up denounced before the Civil Guard for harassment, although the case was never sentenced against them.

Three scared of academies

Already in September 2014 the Basque Association of Consumers and Users (EKA / OCUV) alerted it’s a statement that this was not the only case of academies that ended up scamming their clients. That statement recalled the Opening case of 2002, the case of the Argi academy of 2009 and that of Edutek in 2012. The first case came in September 2002 when Opening announced the upcoming closure of more than 70 centers throughout the country with 45,000 students who had financed these courses with bank loans. Associations as FACUA They went to court and obtained favorable sentences for those affected.

Several of these cases have been reproduced in the Basque Country in recent years. In 2009 it was the Argi academy that closed its doors, with those responsible at the time claiming floods in the premises. A few months later the Government Delegation announced two arrests related to this academy and the alleged fraud of more than twenty students who had even paid for several courses in advance before the surprise closure of the academy. In this case, according to EKA, “a score of his students achieved the removal thanks to an arduous negotiation with the banks and savings banks involved”.

A third case came in October 2012 when the Edutek Academy in Vitoria left almost a hundred opponents without their money after closing by surprise. Most of those affected, as reported at the time News from ÁlavaThey were opponents who had paid, on some occasions, up to 2,000 euros in advance for various courses. The company was declared in voluntary bankruptcy that same month and consumer associations such as ADICAE announced legal actions.