Posted on August 9, 2004

Calif. Freezes Assets of School for Immigrants, Aug. 9

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has joined other states in acting against a private school that claimed to award high school diplomas while teaching its immigrant students a curriculum riddled with errors, including the wrong years for World War II and the wrong number of states.

The California Alternative High School in Los Angeles targeted Hispanic immigrants, charging $450 to $1,450 for a 10-week course it said would lead to a valid diploma and help them get into college, find better jobs and get financial aid, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said last week.

But the school’s certificate isn’t recognized as a high school diploma, Lockyer said, and school officials ignored a previous court order that banned them from telling consumers it was.

Lockyer said the curriculum consisted of a slim workbook riddled with errors, including:

— The United States has 53 states but the “flag has not yet been updated to reflect the addition of the last three states” — Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico.

— World War II began in 1938 and ended in 1942.

— There are two houses of Congress — the Senate and the House, and “one is for Democrats and the other is for the Republicans, respectively.”

The school’s chief executive officer, Daniel Gossai, claimed to have a teaching credential and two doctorates, but prosecutors said they found no evidence that he does. He was a teacher at Victor Valley Community College in the late 1970s, but was fired for immoral conduct, dishonesty and being unfit for service, Lockyer said.

The organization claimed to graduate 1,500 students every 10 weeks from 78 schools across the country.

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter is investigating six complaints received since May, said spokesman Staci Schneider. “All of them focus on misrepresenting the terms of a contract, or the school’s courses,” she said.

Judges in Nebraska and Iowa ordered the school this year to stop enrolling students.

A consumer protection lawsuit filed by Lockyer last week seeks full restitution for students who paid for the course, civil penalties of $32 million and a permanent injunction against school chief executive officer Daniel Gossai and other school officials.

There was no comment from the school or Gossai. Messages left at school offices in Lomita, Los Angeles and Huntington Park last week were not returned, and Gossai’s attorney, Scott Furstman, also didn’t return a call.