Cuomo Secures Jail Time, Restitution From Long Island Man Who Defrauded New Yorkers Through Fake Ged Courses

MINEOLA, NY (March 13, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office has secured a jail sentence and restitution from a Long Island man who exploited local residents through his fake GED home study courses. 

Robert Collins of East Meadow duped thousands of consumers into enrolling in his fraudulent course, even though multiple court orders had already mandated him to permanently close his business. 

Collins pleaded guilty to contempt for violating previous court orders that he shut down his business. He was sentenced by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Anthony Parga to pay $5,000 in restitution and serve 3 months in jail, plus 250 hours of community service. The court also ordered Collins to completely shut down his business by closing the P.O. Box and phone number he used for his fraudulent businesses.

Collins, 68, ran two businesses - “Long Island Home Study” and “East End Home Study” - that falsely claimed they could award genuine, state-authorized high school equivalency diplomas through an at-home General Education Development (GED) test.  Collins’ actions had been barred by multiple court orders and judgments since 2005, but he continues to sell fake GED diplomas. 

“Time after time, this man exploited hard-working New Yorkers who were trying to advance their opportunities through education,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “For ignoring previous court orders and taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers throughout and beyond New York State, he is going to jail.”

Collins repeatedly promised consumers that they would receive diplomas “straight from the Education Department itself” and that the diplomas could be used “to get into any college in the United States.”  Many of the consumers who enrolled in Collins’ course were born outside the United States and were not familiar with the educational requirements for a GED.  They signed up for Collins’ course expecting to obtain diplomas that would help them gain admission to college or trade school.  Instead, they received nothing but worthless “certificates” stating that they had completed Collins’ course.

Under New York law, students can earn the New York State High School Equivalency Diploma only by taking and passing the official General Educational Development (GED) examination.  Any school offering a GED preparatory course must be licensed by the State Department of Education.  The test is free and given at centers that have been approved by the State Education Department and the GED Testing Service.  The term “GED” is sometimes confused with advertised “General Equivalency Diplomas,” but these other credentials, whether obtained through correspondence, on-line, or classroom instruction, are not New York State High School Equivalency Diplomas and are not recognized by the State Education Department.

Before investing in any program of study that offers a General Educational Diploma, consumers should first contact the New York State Department of Education at (518) 474-8940 to find out if the program’s credential is recognized.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Victoria L. Safran, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-In-Charge of the Nassau Regional Office Valerie Singleton.  Senior Investigator Paul Matthews and Postal Inspector Eric Oram, of the United States Postal Inspection Service, assisted in the investigation.

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