A chain of cosmetology schools, which includes two locations in the Quad Cities area, is the target of a lawsuit in which the State of Iowa alleges students were the victims of a fraud scheme.
A lawsuit filed against the La’ James International College cosmetology schools claims the schools engage in “deceptive, omissive and unfair practices,” according to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.
The lawsuit claims the schools created a circle of problems that left students with incomplete training and then penalized the students for not completing that same training.
The complaint cites high instructor turnover that resulted in inconsistent instruction, unqualified instructors and some classrooms with no instructor at all. The school reportedly required students to recruit paying clients for school salons, penalizing students who didn’t recruit enough clients by assessing penalty fees and by only granting practice credit hours for services performed on those clients.
Students were also required to sell salon products as a condition for receiving credit for training, and penalized for insufficient sales, the complaint said.
The lawsuit also claims recordkeeping issues left students unclear about how many hours they had completed and how many hours they had remaining to complete their training. Students were so frustrated that some quit the program after investing thousands of dollars in tuition, the complaint said.
Some students were assessed penalty fees, totaling more than $630,000 over three-and-a-half years, for not completing their education by a date set by the school. Such deadlines are not mandated by the state. Students with extenuating circumstances including illness, military deployment and pregnancy, were allegedly among those penalized for missing program completion dates.
The complaint names La’ James owner Cynthia Becher and the individual La’ James locations as defendants.
La’ James has locations in Davenport and East Moline, as well as Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Iowa City and one in Fremont, Nebraska.
The state asked the court for restitution including penalties of up to $40,000 for each separate violation.