NJ attorney general files fraud action against Capri Institute beauty school

This time, the only beauty school dropout was the school itself. Now, the state's top law enforcement agency is taking legal action on behalf of its 250 students.

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General has filed charges in Superior Court alleging the Capri Institute, a cosmetology school, defrauded its students when it shuttered all four of its campuses with less then 48 hours notice, leaving enrollees with no paperwork to transfer to another school while allegedly pocketing their tuitions.

Concurrently, the state Cosmetology Board is seeking to decertify Capri and prohibit it from future operations in New Jersey.

“Capri’s students paid thousands of dollars in tuition – or incurred thousands of dollars in student loan debt – in an effort to obtain a professional cosmetology and hairstyling license to improve their quality of life," stated Cari Fais, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the Cosmetology Board. "As a result of the school’s alleged unlawful conduct, that dream has been put on hold – perhaps permanently.”

This building, located at 615 Winters Ave. in Paramus, used to house the Capri Institute. A sign stating that office space will be available at this location is also displayed nearby, as seen Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.
This building, located at 615 Winters Ave. in Paramus, used to house the Capri Institute. A sign stating that office space will be available at this location is also displayed nearby, as seen Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021.

Capri left its students and faculty in the lurch when it abruptly announced the widespread closures in December.

Sarah Lavroff, who attended the Brick campus, posted on Facebook at the time that students were told the campus would be "temporarily closed" for a month.

She and others were called into an assembly where faculty members delivered the sobering news but dissuaded students from inquiring further because the instructors had no answers.

"They were like, 'Look around you,' " Lavroff said. " 'Do you think this place is going to reopen?' "

A student at Capri's Kenilworth campus, Derek Alfano, claimed he got stiffed on the $14,000 tuition he paid upfront. Not a paltry amount for Alfano, who'd been out of work for two years due to the pandemic.

The civil action, filed in state Superior Court by the AG's office, accuses the institute of violating consumer fraud protections by failing to advise the cosmetology board of its closures, not providing students with requested transcripts and tuition refunds and for reopening three campuses without resources necessary for students to log "clinic" hours required for licensure, among a slew of other allegations.

Likewise, the AG has accused the institute of hiding the fact that its actions made the school ineligible for financial aid programs, thus forcing returning enrollees to pay tuition out of pocket, although the problem lied in the company's own blunder.

"Capri has been cooperating with the Board of Cosmetology and the Attorney General’s Office and intends to continue to cooperate," said Jeffrey Smith, attorney to Capri Institute, in a statement. "Capri denies the State’s allegations and has not in any way defrauded students or otherwise failed to provide its students with the training and other services to which they are entitled."

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Meanwhile, the state Cosmetology Board has referred its own complaint to an administrative law judge, seeking a ruling on similar claims contained in the civil suit, as well as allegations the school violated board policies by canceling $120,000 in state bonds, and for failing to comply with subpoenas issued against the school's owner, Anne Muenster.

Previous to its closures, the school operated campuses in Paramus, Clifton, Kenilworth and Brick.

Forty-five days after it announced the shutdown, the company "haphazardly" reopened some, but not all, of its sites, according to the AG's office, which noted the Brick campus remained shuttered as of Tuesday.

Nicholas Katzban is a breaking news reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.

Email: katzban@northjersey.com 

Twitter: @nicholaskatzban 

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Capri Institute sued by New Jersey Attorney General