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TRUMP OR CHUMP? 'Apprentice' star faces lawsuit over purported 'university'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Did multi-millionaire Donald Trump treat a bunch of enrollees at his "Trump University" . as chumps? According to a $40 Million lawsuit, said university promised to make students rich. Plaintiffs say the university merely steered them into expensive and mostly useless seminars - and failed to deliver promised apprenticeships.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least get to meet Trump. Instead, all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of "The Apprentice" TV star.

"Trump University engaged in deception at every stage of consumers' advancement through costly programs and caused real financial harm," Schneiderman said. "Trump University, with Donald Trump's knowledge and participation, relied on Trump's name recognition and celebrity status to take advantage of consumers who believed in the Trump brand."

In reaction, Trump's attorney accused Schneiderman of trying to extort campaign contributions from the real estate mogul through his investigation of Trump. Attorney Michael D. Cohen claims that Schneiderman's lawsuit was filled with falsehoods - and that Trump and his university never defrauded anyone.

"The attorney general has been angry because he felt that Mr. Trump and his various companies should have done much more for him in terms of fundraising," Cohen said. "This entire investigation is politically motivated and it is a tremendous waste of taxpayers' money."

Trump has spent more than $136,000 on New York campaigns since 2010, according to the State Board of Elections. He contributed $12,500 to Schneiderman in October 2010, when Schneiderman was running for attorney general. Trump himself entertained the notion of a presidential run last year.

"Donald Trump will not sit back and be extorted by anyone, including the attorney general," Cohen said.

Many of the "wannabe" moguls were unable to land even one real estate deal and were left far worse off than before the lessons, facing thousands of dollars in debt for the seminar program once billed as a top quality university with Trump's "hand-picked" instructors.

Schneiderman accuses Trump and his cronies of engaging in persistent fraud, illegal and deceptive conduct and violating federal consumer protection law. The $40 million he seeks is mostly to pay restitution to consumers.

He dismissed Trump's claim of a political motive.

"The fact that he's still brave enough to follow the investigation wherever it may lead speaks to Mr. Schneiderman's character," Schneiderman spokesman Andrew Friedman says.

Trump had been told to change the name of his enterprise years ago, according to State Education Department officials. They told Trump his "university" lacked a license and didn't meet the legal definitions of a university.

Renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Institute in 2011, it has been dogged since by complaints from consumers and a few isolated civil lawsuits claiming it didn't fulfill its advertised claims.

Students paid between $1,495 and $35,000 to learn from the Manhattan mogul who wrote the best seller, "Art of the Deal" a decade ago followed by "How to Get Rich" and "Think Like a Billionaire."

The three-day seminars didn't, as promised, teach consumers everything they needed to know about real estate. The Trump University manual tells instructors not to let consumers "think three days will be enough to make them successful," Schneiderman said. promised.

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