Ex-students say Jet University flight school was bogus

At the start of the slick ad, an excited announcer intones, "Are you ready to get serious about becoming a professional airline pilot?"

The promises are amazing: In less than nine months at Jet University, the announcer says, even students with zero flight experience will land jobs as pilots. Even better, students train in a gleaming new classroom with a fleet of Diamond planes, are eligible for 100 percent financial aid, and even get a guaranteed flying gig after they graduate.

"We are the only school in the nation that offers a written job guarantee," founder Heath Cohen brags in the video.

If it sounds too good to be true, a growing class of former students is now alleging in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that the school was a total sham. About 50 ex-students now say the school had no federal certification, stole loan money, and lied about job prospects.

"This intentional and fraudulent scheme was devised... so [students] would continue to enroll at Jet U," attorney Robert Parks writes in a complaint.

Parks declined to comment on the suit. Bradley Mark Ottosen, Jet U's manager, no longer has a working phone number and has not yet entered an attorney representing him onto the court docket.

"I feel bad for any students who don't have a job based on where the industry and the economy were when they graduated," says Cohen (who is not named in Parks's lawsuit). "But they received the training they were promised at Jet U."

Jet University set up shop at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport in 2006.

But from the beginning, Parks alleges, the school had no way to keep its promises. Jet U wasn't recognized by federal or state education officials. So it instead routed student loans through another accredited flight school and then used the cash to fund its marketing campaign, he says. Students invested up to $70,000 in loans to attend the school.

Three years later, in 2009, the school abruptly shut its doors and left more than a hundred students hanging. Many were so outraged they started a muckraking website — jetuniversitysucks.com – to push for better regulations on flight schools.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink