Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Freezes Assets of Alleged Houston Diploma Mills

From the State Attorney General's Office:

HOUSTON – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has obtained a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against two purported "academies" that falsely claim to be accredited educational institutions.

The Harris County district court's order stemmed from an enforcement action filed by the Texas Attorney General's Office against Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy. In addition to the two so-called academies, the State's enforcement action also named the academies' directors as well as five related entities as defendants.

According to court documents filed by the State, Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy offer two fraudulent online education products to customers nationwide: high school diplomas and General Education Development (GED) degrees.

The defendants market their education programs in online advertisements, claiming that the so-called academies are legitimate, nationally accredited home schools. Under Texas law, however, neither Lincoln Academy nor Brownstone Academy qualifies as a home school nor are they authorized to provide GED testing.

The State's investigation also found that the purported accreditor – National Home School Accreditation of America – is not an accrediting institution at all but merely a website the defendants created to confer an air of legitimacy to the so-called academies.

The State's investigation also revealed that Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy impose no educational requirements on their students.

Customers simply pay fees starting at $299 and then take a series of exams that do not require a high school level of education to pass. In fact, the defendants' programs require no coursework and provide no instruction, legitimate textbooks or reference materials. Students may start taking the test immediately after paying the enrollment fee.

Given the nonexistent education provided, Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy's degrees generally are not accepted by community colleges, four-year universities, the military, law enforcement academies or employers – despite the defendants' misleading online claims.

The State is seeking civil penalties and restitution from the defendants for multiple violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Business and Commerce Code's Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act.

In addition to having their accounts frozen, Lincoln Academy and Brownstone Academy were prohibited from accepting payments from students and promoting unlawful services. A temporary injunction hearing has been scheduled for March 31.


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