We applaud Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman for cracking down on unlicensed employment agencies and the A.G.’s commitment to protecting low wage workers who use employment agencies as they look for work.
Consumers should also not pay upfront fees to employment agencies, as these fees are, in most cases, illegal under New York law.
Companies Posted Phony Job Listings And Made False Promises Of Employment To Trick Consumers Into Paying For Expensive Security Guard Training Courses
(New York, NY) Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed a lawsuit against two companies and their owners that use phony job listings and false promises of employment to trick unemployed consumers into paying for expensive security guard training courses they don’t need. New York City-based Security Elite Group, a/k/a Secure Enforcement Group (“Security Elite”) and LJW Security Services & Training, Inc. (“LJW Security”) and their respective owners Stephan Edouard and Larry Williams are alleged to have scammed thousands of consumers.
To ensure sufficient funds are available for consumer restitution and the public is protected, the Attorney General’s Office secured a temporary restraining order freezing any assets that Security Elite, LJW Security and their respective owners may have, and temporarily barring them from advertising job openings or selling or operating security guard training courses.
“Companies that prey upon the vulnerable and the unemployed to make a profit must be held accountable,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “There has to be one set of rules for everyone, and our office will go after scammers that rip off New York’s consumers.”
After receiving complaints from consumers, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an undercover investigation of the companies. Both companies are currently unlicensed. LJW Security posted, and Security Elite continues to post, false security guard and similar job listings online and in newspapers that imply the company is hiring at high hourly wages any consumer who completes their training courses. In fact, the companies are simply selling LJW Security’s courses and are not providing the jobs promised to those who complete the training program.
The Attorney General’s investigation revealed that when consumers responded to the companies’ advertisements they promised them that they were selected for a position. Security Elite and LJW Security would then tell consumers that before they can start working at the promised position, they must complete a series of security guard training courses given at LJW Security, at a cost of about $400. After completing LJW Security’s training courses, consumers discovered that these companies did not provide employment to graduates of the courses offered. Instead of providing the promised employment, the companies offered graduates bogus referrals to security guard companies. When consumers followed up on those referrals, they found that the companies that they were referred to had no knowledge of Security Elite and LJW Security, they were not expecting the consumer for an interview, and they were not actually hiring.
In addition to making false promises of employment, Security Elite and LJW Security also falsely represent that consumers must complete the entire package of courses to be eligible to work as a security guard. In fact, only one of the three courses in the series — the eight hour pre-assignment training course — is required to begin working as a security guard.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for the thousands of consumers defrauded in the schemes, as well as injunctive relief prohibiting the companies from continuing to operate these scams. More than 8,000 consumers took LJW Security courses between 2010 and 2014.
Consumers seeking to work as a security guard should be wary of any security guard training school that poses as an employer of security guards or promises to place students in security guard positions. Consumers should read any contract with the security guard company carefully and, before signing any contract, check to see if the school is approved by the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. Consumers should also keep in mind that low-cost and even free security guard training courses may be available. For example, the State University of New York’s Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center offers free security guard training courses for individuals who meet certain income guidelines, and many community colleges offer low-cost security guard training courses. Consumers should also not pay upfront fees to employment agencies, as these fees are, in most cases, illegal under New York law.
This case is the latest in a series of actions brought by Attorney General Schneiderman against security guard schools and companies that have preyed upon unemployed New Yorkers by baiting consumers with phony job offers and selling them inferior security guard training courses. C.P. International Security and 1st Security Prep and Placement were shut down in 2012 and 2013 respectively after being sued by the Attorney General.
This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Lee, Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levine and Bureau Chief Jane Azia, all of the Consumer Frauds Bureau, Investigator Elsa Rojas and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Karla G. Sanchez.