Open letter to SABA President Khurshid Khoja, Esquire

In Re: American School of Aviation

Dear Mr.Khoja

I applause and thank you for the SABA’s decision to come to aid for the American School of Aviation students stranded in Atwater. It’s a light at the end of the tunnel with a hope of getting out the quagmire at long last.

Early this year, Silver State Helicopters (SSH) school in Las Vegas closed by filing a Chapter 7. Over 2,500 students lost $70,000 each. They operated 250 helicopters at 40 school locations. If the past similar school closure cases are any indication, the prosecution of the ASA case seems less likely. Your writing to the county DA requesting criminal charges to be brought against the unscrupulous school owner(s) is a step in the right direction.

For the recovery of student fund in absence of any disposable assets likely to be left with ASA, I am of an opinion that only viable means is to name both the Kingfisher Airlines and the student loan lending institutions as co-defendants in the lawsuit. The desire to keep their public image from tarnished is likely to make them think twice to get entangled in a lawsuit and it would bring them swiftly to the settlement table.

While no lawyers are miracle workers, I trust that one of your able member lawyers with legal expertise in this venue and judicial connection in India could rise to an occasion to build a strong enough case to achieve success in recovering the lost student’s fund.

In July 2007, the Bureau for Private Post secondary and Vocational Education (BPPVE) was abolished much to the public dismay leaving the consumers statewide unprotected. While your organization’s bifurcated effort in civil and criminal front continues, it would serve a great public interest at this juncture if you could take one step further to push for a timely legislative enactment for the Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF) to safeguard student’s tuition from school failures and closures in the future. Real social justice then becomes apparent not as something that will be but something that is. I wish you success in this endeavor. Until such time, sir I am.

Respectfully submitted.

Echo Yankee
ATP/A&P

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South Asian Bar Association of Northern California to help ASA students

It seems that help is on its way for the students of the American School of Aviation,  South Asian Bar Association of Northern California (SABA) has offered assistance to the more than 100 stranded students for assessing their legal options to get justice and remain within the U.S.

A press release issued by the South Asian Bar Association confirms the report. “These students have been placed in a really tough situation. They did not receive the opportunity to complete their coursework as promised and have not been assured that refunds will be provided. Many of them do not have permanent housing and some of them are still attempting to transfer to other schools,” said Shaamini Babu, Co-chair of SABA’s Pro Bono Committee, who is working with Ashok Sinha, consul for community affairs at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco, to ascertain the facts of the case and the legal issues that the students are facing.

Fortunately, the Department of Homeland Security has expressed its wish not to pressurize the students to leave the country upon the expiration of their current visas.

SABA President Khurshid Khoja has asked Merced County District Attorney to bring criminal charges against the owners of the American School of Aviation, a critical move, which will help students obtain U.S. visas for them to remain in the country indefinitely and receive work authorization.

SABA also provided the students with referrals to attorneys in the area willing to take on the civil matter on a contingency basis.

“Our Pro Bono Committee normally doesn’t refer clients to counsel willing to work pro bono unless the public interest is directly implicated. However, in this situation we were able to find SABA members willing to work on contingency because this potential breach of contract renewed our community’s outrage over the exploitation of immigrant South Asians by swindlers, traffickers, and other opportunists who prey on the vulnerable,” said Vid Prabhakaran, SABA Vice President-External.

In this type of contingency arrangement, the attorney receives a percentage of the recovery, only if a recovery is made. In the event that the attorney is unsuccessful, he suffers the costs of bringing the legal action including the costs of filing fees, expert fees, investigation fees, and the attorney’s own legal fees.

Students can contact SABA members and discuss their further plans on below given contact details:

General inquiries about ASA cases should be directed to SABA President Khurshid Khoja via e-mail or mail to:

South Asian Bar Association of Northern California
c/o The Chugh Firm
4800 Great America Parkway, Ste 310
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Travel agent’s trial date vacated as defense looks at options

The Fallon (Fallon is a city in Churchill County, located in western Nevada, United States) travel agent accused of embezzling money from more than 30 people had her scheduled trial date of Sept. 15 vacated Tuesday morning.

Cynthia Lea Holland-Taylor, 60, is charged with 36 crimes, including 16 counts of embezzlement, 16 counts of use of a personal identification and two counts fraud of credit.

District Judge David Huff set a Sept. 2 status hearing with Holland-Taylor in which she could change her plea again.

District Attorney Art Mallory said his office is not changing its position, but added the defense is re-evaluating the case and the not guilty plea.

Mallory said the state wants Holland-Taylor – if convicted Ð to be sent to the Nevada State Prison for the crimes.

He said the eliminated trial date leads him to believe there is a good possibility Holland-Taylor will enter a plea on Sept. 12. If she does not, a new trial date would have to be scheduled.

While the jury trial was scheduled for Sept. 15-26, her attorney, Paul Drakulich has said he doubted the case would go to trial, adding he thought there would be a resolution before then.

The charges against Holland-Taylor stem from her business, Cindy’s Travel Unlimited, in which she allegedly double-billed some customers and took payments for tickets never purchased.

She allegedly received $19,000 in tickets from Blue Sky Travel but never paid for them.

Holland-Taylor is also charged with issuing a bad check, which carries a prison sentence of one to four years and a $5,000 fine.

The embezzlement charges carry penalties of one to 10 years in the Nevada State Prison on each count, and the sentences would double for any victim who is an elderly person. According to the application for the arrest warrant, many of the alleged victims are more than 60 years old.

Obtaining and using false identities of others carries a sentence up to 20 years in the Nevada State Prison and a $100,000 fine, while the fraudulent credit card offenses carry a sentence of one to six years on each

Holland-Taylor remains free on a bail of $167,500.

Only chance of recovery of the student’s fees from ASA is……………….

Hello ASA students,

First off, I’d like to express my sincere sympathy for those students stranded by the recent ASA fiasco and wish you all the early arrival of meaningful assistance to alleviate the current enduring hardship. I have no personal stake in this ordeal and neither lost nor gained anything from this occurrence. Nevertheless I can’t stop being indignant about both Prince and Reny of their incompetence and deceit whichever the characterization is appropriate that brought to cause a current plight onto those young aspiring Indian students.

In as much as I’d like to believe that Prince and Reny stashed away a sizable amount of cash somewhere as some still like to speculate or believe and therefore there’s some chance of recovery of their prepaid fees, it pains me to tell you all such chances to exist is literally infinitesimal if not nonexistent.

I know it’s easier said than done but give it a rest on a hope of recovery by a means of law suit. In the Breach of Contract case such as this, you will most likely prevail in the court and obtain a judgment. But think about it, what good is it that the judgment that can collect nothing from the defaulting party. A writ of execution issued from the court is just a useless paper of no value. Remember no one wins in a law suit except lawyers. (been there, done that, fought an airport use permit issue against a county ordinance in the US Federal Court and won the battle but lost the war in the end after consuming 3 years and $150K in legal fees, .a Pyrrhic victory indeed.

Judging from the reported size of operation,(110 students, 43 instructors, 40 aircraft) the monthly operating cost could be anywhere from $225k to $250k/mo. or more to keep that size of operation going. Remember ASA did not have $4.4 mil in a lump sum cash to start with. It’s an accumulative total revenue over the time they were in business. Unless they had an sufficient operating capital set aside which I doubt, their monthly operating expenses were entirely relied on one source; student fees. There’re good months with some surplus fund left and there’re some bad months with an insufficient amount of income even to cover the monthly overhead. It’s highly probable that ASA needed at minimum 4 to 5 new students to keep its doors open. All fees collected from the students were all spent long since and I bet they’re just scraping by from month to month with a hope of someday getting ahead with an arrival of new enrollment group consisting of substantial number of students. Unfortunately, that day never came and the KFA fallout was the last straw. And while they were still at it, the problems started to pile up one after another. It probably started with a minor student’s complain and then rapidly growing to many issues that eventually raised red flags and invited all kinds of government scrutinies from all directions FAA, County’s office, IRS, FTA (Calif. State Franchise Tax Board) and all. Despite less than honorable character references made about both Prince and Reny in many posts, I doubt they had planned this outcome from the beginning. It’s a case of pure incompetence and mismanagement. They had somehow managed to slip their foot in the door and pried open the business opportunity just in time to ride the surging tide of pilot shortages beginning to be faced by the Indian airlines.

Some of you already know about another flight school closure earlier this year which draws some parallels to the events at ASA in the order of far greater magnitude.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_State_Helicopters

Silver State Helicopter (SSH) school headquartered in Las Vegas closed abruptly by filing Chapter 7 leaving 2,500 students out to the street. They operated over 250 helicopters at over 40 schools nationwide in the US. All students prepaid $70,000 each for their training fees. A Class action suit is pending in the Nevada Court and the lawyers are having field days. Good lawyers can compose an opposing lawyer’s argument before composing his own and they are very good and capable indeed and naturally they command high fees most can’t afford.

The only chance of recovery of the student’s fees from ASA is by naming KFA along with banks and lending institutions as co-defendant on the premise that they too are culpable for the damages sustained by those entrusting students. Their failure to perform proper audit and due diligence on the flight school led to the demise of the program today otherwise succeeded. This premise has a much greater chance of succeeding and the judgement amount of $5 mil range plus legal expenses has far more chances of collection from KFA and the Indian lending institutions involved than nonexistent collection probability from the duo Prince and Reny.

Now sit tight and think hard about the good advices offered in the Capt. Kishore’s post and begin to make a check list of your own action plan and proceed to follow thru on it one by one. BTW, make sure to insist on a kind of insurance policy like the one mentioned in the navdeev’s post if you’re fortunate enough to take out another loan again.

Before too long, you’ll be out of the soup and turbulence and you’ll be back cruising in the smooth blue skies again. How do I know this? Well I went through the similar ordeals few times myself since my first arrival in the US in 1968 from Asia and got my ATP, A&P, MEI, AD and few more ratings and pursued my aviation career until my semi-retirement from flight duties few years ago. Well, that’s my two cents. Hang tight and never ever give up your goal.
All the best.

Echo Yankee, Real identity not revealed……

Stranded Indian Medical students in China are being flown home by Air India

Dozens of Indian medical students who have been stranded in China after buying fake air tickets are being flown home, officials from Air India say.

The airline flew 12 of the students back to India on Monday.

Many students returning to India on holiday were left stranded in Beijing and other parts of China after they learnt their tickets were bogus.

Indian papers reported on Monday that the students were allegedly duped by a Bangladeshi travel agent.

The papers said that one of the students had filed a complaint with the Beijing police.

According to a press release by Air India the airline would bring all the students back to India in the next two to three days.

“We have been approached by at least 30 students so far who are being brought back to India on regular flights from Beijing,” said Prasad Rao, spokesman from Air India.

On Sunday Emirates Airways and Malaysian Airlines were reported not to have accepted the students’ e-tickets on the grounds that they were fake. They were prevented from boarding their flights.

Air India says more than 15 students are flying back on Tuesday and a batch of 20 will be put on a flight to India on Wednesday.

Mr Rao said they were giving priority to the stranded students but he said they were helping only those who were coming forward for help.

He clarified that the travel was not free and students were paying $631 (27,000 rupees) each, which is 15% less than the fares charged by other airlines.

Hundreds of Indian students travel to China and Russia to study medicine rather than sit stringent entrance tests in India.

Most of the students were studying in specialized ultrasound school. Being highly demanding carrier, ultrasound school are very much in demand all over the world.

Bangladeshi Travel Agent duped 154 Indian Medical Students in China

Chinese police have sealed the house of an absconding Bangladeshi agent, accused of duping 154 Indian medical students by selling them fake tickets for flights to India.

Indian embassy officials had requested the police to investigate the case after the students studying in Chongqing, Nanjing and Suzhou medical universities who had booked E-tickets through the agent Mohammed Jabbar Miyan for Emirates and Malaysian airlines were turned back at the airport.

The students, several of whom knew Miyan, were to return home to India for summer vacation to Hyderabad from Shanghai, Chongqing and Suzhou.

They had booked the tickets attracted by cheap fares and transferred the money to the account of Miyan, who is now absconding, sources said. The Bangladesh embassy said there was no record in the Bangladeshi community list to confirm the existence of Miyan.

Sources at the Indian embassy said they have written to the police to investigate the case.

Miyan’s residence had been sealed. The police had also been requested to take measures for freezing the bank accounts of Miyan, they said.

The Emirates and Malaysian airlines had also been contacted seeking information, they said.

A group of students who had booked tickets through the same agent had left but the problem surfaced on July 11 when another batch of 34 was refused boarding pass in shanghai in eastern China by the Emirates airlines whose staff told them that they need to produce credit cards.

The agent had booked the tickets with his card but the money had not reached the emirates airlines. Officials at the Indian embassy and the consulate in shanghai were in touch with the Emirates and Malaysian airlines on the issue.

Air India had been requested to accommodate the students on a priority basis to facilitate the travel of students for vacation after the final exams, they said.

According to sources, out of 154 students, 20 had reached India and nine others managed to get the refund, while the rest are struggling to make the trip and get their money back.

Over 7,000 Indian medical students are studying in Chinese universities.

Recovery may not be possible if Prince & Reny file for Bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Law, feels Capt C Kishore

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Capt C Kishore, Director, Arrow Aviation Solutions writes

Dear ASA Students,

At the outset I am sure those who took the Psychometric test under me for the ASA-KFA program, would remember me and my steadfast criticism of students who did not perform well. Anyways, we had severed ties with ASA after they did not renew the contract with us and inspite of that on personal requests from Hasher Khan, Reny and also their Indian Representatives (Study Abroad), I continued doing tests for 3 more months. Later realized that I was being conned and would never get paid for the tests done on the pretext that I had not released results… that’s obvious, why should I release the results unless we are assured of being paid for our services. Repeated phone calls to Hasher/Reny/Sergio yielded no result and when I did a bit of research I was sure that ASA would shut down sooner than later and I had predicted this as early as Nov’2007 after the KFA fall out. In fact I had advised a few students who were in touch with me to get out before it is too late. I was told by these students that Prince has threatened not to return the money if anyone leaves.

Just some food for thought from my visit to Atwater from 4th July to 9th July’2008. I went there on request of few parents and Study Abroad, Chennai to help students secure transfers to better flight schools and also organize a good attorney to file a law suit. Firstly my observation was that there are far too many groups of students and each group with their personal agenda on how to solve the situation, unfortunately I found most of the groups far too immature in their actions as well as long term objectives, it appeared as if they had lost focus on why they had gone to USA. I do not blame them considering the trauma they would have undergone after being evicted from the barracks and realizing that their flying dream has crash landed.

1. As Bhavna brought out, Who is “Prince”? if you just go back a few years behind you will realise that apparently he started out as a Flight Instructor in Amritsar Flying School, Punjab, where there are unconfirmed reports that he was involved in cases of fraud following which he fled to USA/Canada.

2. Can Kingfisher be indemnified from the whole scene as they play a major role in the whole deal, most of the kids joined ASA because of the KFA (Kingfisher Airlines) tie up, inspite of knowing that they were going to pay more than other flight schools. The fact lies that ASA continued to use the KFA tie up to lure new students even after the fall out. How come KFA never did a audit on a flight school they endorsed for their cadet program? Which should have been a mandatory practise in view of KFA allowing ASA to use their logo for co-branding…. this beats me totally… unless Prince had been paying KFA officials responsible for such an audit.

3. $4.4 million and counting, I am not a great finance expert, but being a Pilot and an aviation consultant with thorough knowledge on what goes into running a flight school from fuel, maintenance, aircraft lease, spares, landing charges,etc etc….I can safely say that it is next to impossible to expend such a large amount of money in such a short period of time. Well the finance experts might want to prove me wrong by putting pen to paper, yet they would fail miserably. I visited the ASA ramp in Atwater, personally and saw that there were hardly 7 or 8 airplanes on the ramp, wonder whatever happened to the 40 odd aircraft if they were actually owned by ASA. Well if they were on lease then on what did Reny/ Prince spend money on.

4. I am sorry to say but, after extensive talks with various Attorneys I can say that recovery of the money of all the students may not be possible if they file for Bankruptcy under Chapter 7 of the Federal Law, but still a lot depends on discovery of assets within the USA to recover the money. Knowing Prince and Reny, I am sure there is no money in USA coz I don’t think either of them is so foolish to have assets in USA and are waiting for those assets to be attached through a Court injunction. Yes, sending them behind bars maybe a probable proposition, even though it is too early to say that. So, basically there are far too many variables and let us all accept the fact that no miraculous recovery of fees paid is going to happen overnight.

5. I was told that the Indian Embassy in SFO has provided 2 attorneys who are willing to fight the law suit against ASA, without any money being paid upfront and want 40% of the money recovered as attorney fees, which I feel is ridiculous. I wonder what the hell is the Indian Embassy doing, are they trying to get the students be duped of their rightful claim of damages for what they have undergone. I would rather pay the attorney his fees and enjoy the money he recovers as damages. Because if there is money to be recovered from assets then I might as well as recover my complete money. How do we know whether there is money to be recovered, well that can only be ascertained through a thorough investigation by a competent financial investigator. Please keep in mind that this is a huge lawsuit and the claim for damages can amount to as high as $5 million upwards. even that might be an understatement. So just tread the road ahead with caution, those offering help may not actually be a knight in shining Armour.

As they always say advise is always free, whether you take it or leave it is your choice…. so here goes my two pence on this issue to all of you ASA students.

1. Those with funds crunch right now, try and organize funds enough to fund your Private at least, get your PPL and head back to India, put your head down and study, clear your DGCA papers and then re assess your finances and try and get into Indigo or Air India Express cadet program, which shall at least assure you a job in the current volatile market.

2. Those who can afford to complete their training and are not a part of the KFA cadet program, you better think about getting yourself a CFI and work towards time building before getting back to India, try getting add-on ratings on King Air B200 or a Citation CJ2, so that the chances of your enjoyability increase in Corporate sector.

3. Along with your CPL get yourself an Aviation Management Diploma from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University so that you can get placement in Airline Operations while you slowly work your way back towards the flight deck.

I wish you guys all the best in all your future endeavors and all of you are most welcome to mail me at kishore@arrowaviationsolutions.com.

Happy Landings

Capt C Kishore   Director, Arrow Aviation Solutions