Open letter to the Sheriff and the District Attorney of the Merced County, California

My view from the sideline:

The Honorable Mark Razin, the Merced County Sheriff
The Honorable Larry Morse II, the District Attorney of the Merced County

In Re: American School of Aviation

Dear Messrs Razin and Morse:

Since the first news appeared in the Merced Sun-Star about a month ago related to the sudden closure of American School of Aviation at Castle Airport, I have been following the matter with my mixed emotion of sympathy and indignation.

From what has been reported by various media, the case appears to have an overwhelming elements of offenses to constitute a criminal fraud, yet no criminal charges have been filed to this day against the unscrupulous school owner(s) much to the public dismay, why?

ASA owners with Vijay Mallaya of Kingfisher Airlines
ASA owners with Vijay Mallaya of Kingfisher Airlines

In the follow up story appearing in the Merced Sun-Star on August 05, 2008, it was reported that the FBI assistance was being sought because your office/department couldn’t handle the forensic accounting needed (emphasis added). Please kindly explain this highfalutin legalese to the public in a layman’s term, and the reason why so.

You have all the evidence and prosecuting authority necessary to file the case right where you’re in the Merced County. Why look elsewhere by somehow suggesting with a specious notion that this is an international case involving foreign nationals and therefore out side of your jurisdiction. Why not proceed on your own without any further indecision irrespective of whether the feds assistance and cooperation on the case is forthcoming or not.

The most recent record of the FAA aircraft registry shows eighteen aircraft formally owned and registered to the debtor defendant changed hands earlier this week. (13 on 8/04, 5 on 8/05) This alone ipso facto constitutes a felony offense under the Penal Code§155.

There seems to exist ample evidence with sufficiency to bring forth criminal charges under but not limited to the following penal codes:

§155 Defendant or judgement debtor fraudulently removing, concealing, or disposing of personal
property sought to be recovered.
§476 (a) Checks, bank drafts insufficient funds; Intent to defraud
§484.b Diversion of funds received to obtain or pay for services, labor, materials or equipment
§532 False pretenses; obtaining money, labor or property
§573 Defrauding innkeepers, etc.

Having stated the above, I have read the following mission statement from the respective offices and while came away quite impressed with the lofty statements, it’s more than apparent that none of the goals stated therein have yet to be fulfilled as far as the American School of Aviation case is concerned.

Here’s your statement, Sheriff Razin.
“Our mission is to provide responsive, professional, and caring law enforcement service to all the people of Merced County. We will respond to call for service promptly, protect lives and property to the best of our abilities, initiate and maintain crime prevention programs, and apprehend criminal offenders.” –Sheriff Mark Razin-

And here’s the one from the DA’s office.
“The mission of the Merced County District Attorney’s Office is to seek justice by ensuring that victim’s rights and the public’s safety are our first priority through the fair, equal, vigorous, and efficient enforcement of the criminal laws.” – Merced County District Attorney’s Office –

It is my sincere hope that the elected high officials of the Merced County such as yourselves live up to the own mission statement for the good of the public without resorting to another “forensic accounting” bit.

Respectfully submitted.

Echo Yankee, ATP/A&P

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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

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

Story from the other side (part II). Reny Kozman responds to widespread criticism

At least we do not deserve to be stoned all the way. Our main goal was the quality of training, we may have made our mistakes along the way, but we are also humans with a limited capacity… and ASA was a business, a successful business for 6 years in a row. but if the US and countries governments still can’t solve the fuel problems, why did people think we can? Consider this, Six months ago, we went to all the students saying you have to pay an additional $6,000 to $8,000 more for your training, what would have been the response? i personally went to UAE, China to get more profitable business so your families does not have to come up with the additional funds.

I am surprised, that Sasha Puri, Vikram Pawar, Suraj Chopra and Ameya Kameth did not mention to any one, that they paid their tuition in Gurgaon and that ASA in California never got a penny out of it?!! Specially that 3 of them already graduated, now was ASA out to Scam student? How about each one who paid the $2,000 deposit in Gurgaon? And the US never got a penny of it, but all of you got the credit on your account?

Now every one is going after the management, fine, put your self in Prince’s shoes and he admits he is an AW!!

On New Year’s Day, Juana opens up the school and is feeding the fish in the tank; guess what she found in there?
A: HUMAN POOP!!

On a weekend evening, a drunken student pulls the fire alarm (Accidently!!) who had to leave the house to baby sit the reset of the students?

Students playing cricket in the parking lot, using the school’s furniture as goals..
For God Sake, we had to teach students to take a shower before showing up for class!!

Add to that, dealing with the FAA, Mechanics, India, lawyers, accountants, airport management for every little thing that students do!!

Parents, how do I tell a father, that your son is drinking every night and I have an arrest warrant for him? How do I tell your parents, your son is not showing up for lessons because the schedule is too early?! How do we tell them, your son is too busy with the bank teller and does not have time to study?!! Etc…

Here is what happened,
April last year 2007, Gurgaon was shut down costing a lot of money
July, was the last KFA interview
November, KFA staff came to visit to expand the relationship, instead, students complained about the housing and God knows what else, so they did not give a damn and cancelled the tie up!!
Still in November, 17 Students panicked and left the school creating more negative publicity.

Here is a quick lesson in business, if your current customers are pushing your new customers away for whatever reason, you run out of money and eventually your business runs out!!

ASA lost the market in India, even though, over 200 students graduated form there, all of the sudden, every one forgot that fact!!
November, I go to UAE to get some business, I got one student
March I got to China to get some business, it takes time
April I go to Egypt to get some business, we got 3 .

All of that and the FAA is on our tail to shut us down, in 2007, we had 109 inspections, and my question to them, if we were so bad, why did not you shut us down?!! And if we were not so bad, why did you inspect us 109 times?
I still do not have an answer to that, the FAA alone, costed 20% of Prince’s work week just to entertain them!! Why is it, that none of the students asked them that question?

I am sorry the management had to be strict as we did not have time to baby sit adults who were suppose to be in the air lines in a matter of months, I hope your future captains will make sure to tuck you in your seat before you fly!! Our main goal was to make you a pilot because we truly believed that one day thought out your career, the only thing that will save your life is your training, and that was our priority number 1.

They took our airplanes, cars and our house is about to be taken, but no one can take this from us
Our safety record is 100%, 98% of our graduates are successfully employed and satisfied with the training.

Indian & Foreign community came out to help ASA students.


Living in US? Call India as low as 4 cent per minute with Airtel

Comments are pouring in from all parts of the world to help Indian & other nationalities students stranded in American School of Aviation. Offers of help are coming from India West Newspaper, California Airways — A flight School in Hayward and many individuals who revealed many shocking things about the owner Manpreet ‘Prince’ Singh who believed to be an illegal in USA and applied for the Political Asylum in 1996 fearing porsecution in India. Bhakti & Bhavna Naik had some more things to be revealed so they came out with an interesting piece of information and wanted us to pulish it. So here it is……..

Mail from two Sisters Bhakti & Bhavana Naik

My name is Bhakti Naik. I and my sister Bhavana paid $17,00/- to the American School Of Aviation in March ,08. In just four days I asked for refund because I came to know that the school has only 6 – 8 planes, has no enough instructors and plus the students don’t get to fly much. I asked for my refund in just 4 days after I got enrolled and since then till date I did not received my refund due. I thought of going to the small claims court, but there the announcer told me that Manpreet Singh already has 4 – 5 cases pending in the court. I talked to one student name Shailender Kapoor and he told me that he got the judgment but did not get the money back. I thought over it and then decided not to go to small claim court as Iwill also sail inthe same boat as the other 4 – 5 students. I have emails from ASA promising me to refund my money back, but still they have not done that. I came to know in March 08 that Prince is a CROOK , since then I and my family started writting to all the authorities for help, which includes the FAA, Sheriffs Department, the Merced Police, The Congress Men’s office, Merced County, Atwater County, and the Assembly Member’s office and so on. Since March 08, we have been struggling hard to fix this crook. At the end March 08, I and my sister talked to the Merced Sun Star’s reporter and told him about all this. Even he started investigating. We have been trying hard and with the help of my familyand by the grace of God , now the whole world has come to know about ASA and Mr. Singh and his so called wife Reny Kozman. Since March , we used to visit the students of ASA and asked their help and tried to save them from this Crook but at that time no one supported us. But still we didn’t get afraid or never back up and kept fighting against Singh and now we are happy that its worth all our efforts !
Thanks to FAA and the county for their help.
We are also thankful to Scott Jason of Merced Sun Star for helping us and for publishing the news regarding Singh and his school which alerted the students of ASA. Out of 100 there are still some students who are the stooges of Singh and I am afraid that they are future Singh and Reny.
But because of gods blessing now the whole world has come to know about these crooks. We have heard that Manpreet Singh is staying illegally in this Country, he had come to US in 1995 on a student visa and ended up staying here. We are still working hard and will keep working hard till we see Singh and Reny behind the Bars.
If anyone has any more information please do let us know. It is time we come together.
Thank you.

American School of Aviation became biggest aviation scam of our times


Living in US? Call India as low as 4 cent per minute with Airtel

This whole issue of American School of Aviation has become such an important issue for all of us in travel industry that we cannot just let it go. I was most concerned by the reports being published in American media which are very disturbing. According to some dropouts and current students of ASA which are right now hanging out in USA, this whole school is turning out to be one of the biggest scam in aviation history of USA and one of the biggest damage ever done to the Indian students by their own countrymen Manpreet ‘Prince’ Singh. With all due respect to all of you guys and gals who successfully completed your training from Amercan School of Aviation, I’m not sure whether you’ll be allow to fly in coming days as there are complaints which are suggesting that pilots were not given anough time in air.

Amarnadh Kachepalli, a 26-year-old student from Andhra Pradesh, a state in India, left the school in March after three months because he only spent one hour in the sky training.

“There’s no education at all,” he said. “There’s no flying.”

Kachepalli said he believes he should have recorded about 80 hours in that time. School officials assured him that he could earn his pilot’s license in six to eight months, he said.

Each student needs to spend about 200 hours in the sky and the same amount on the ground to qualify for license, Kachepalli said. Most of the early coursework is done in the classroom.

A commercial license typically requires a year’s worth of training, he said.

Kachepalli has been contacting various local, state and federal agencies as well as the Indian Consulate to see if they can force the school to return about $52,000, which includes his tuition, living expenses and the cost to transfer to a different school.

He holds a master’s in business administration and said he left his job working for a hospital to come to America for a year.

ASA is also being sued for $56,000 in unpaid fuel bills.

Gemini Flight Support, which sells gasoline at the former Air Force base, filed a complaint Thursday in Merced County Superior Court against American School of Aviation.

It alleges that a $24,400 check from the school bounced May 19 due to insufficient funds. ASA also has about $32,000 in outstanding invoices, according to the complaint.

“A check of this size being returned is more than what we can bear,” Gemini Flight Support vice president Jim Price said. “Given the price of fuel, we just absolutely can’t afford to carry that kind of a debt load.”

The flight school will also be investigated to see whether it was an accounting error or if the company knew the check would bounce, said Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.

The court case is among the recent issues with the flight school, which primarily trains foreign students, often from India, to become commercial pilots. It’s been at Castle Commerce Center since 2005.

County officials grounded its flights earlier this month because the school no longer had a valid insurance policy, and Merced city leaders found that ASA was using its airport as makeshift training ground without a necessary business license.

Also, a few students have been demanding that their tuition be returned because they’re unsatisfied with the amount of time they spent in the sky. A couple of others have won small claims against the school.

Last month, a judge awarded student Shailendra Kapoor $7,500 for breach of contract and emotional stress, according to Merced court records. Tuition for a pilot’s license can run about $40,000.

ASA president Manpreet Singh, who typically goes by Prince Singh, only responded by e-mail. He was served with a copy of the lawsuit late in the day and didn’t respond for comment about the civil case.

Earlier in the day, he wrote that about 5 percent of the students are unhappy or drop out because their learning style doesn’t match up with the American School of Aviation’s standards.

“And this is quite normal and expected,” he wrote.

The business is in the middle of a restructuring so it can train more students. It’s preparing to move to a larger building at the former U.S. Air Force base. By August, Singh hopes to train about 300 students at a time.

County spokesman Mark Hendrickson said Castle managers grounded the school’s flights May 15 when they learned the business’ insurance policy had lapsed.

The county could have been held liable had any of the flights crashed. The ban was lifted Thursday when the school showed Castle officials that it had a new insurance policy, Hendrickson said.

Prince  Singh denied that the county ever grounded the school’s flights. The school’s planes were spotted at Merced Municipal Airport last week in the midst of the county’s flying ban. The city airfield was being used as a makeshift school until Thursday, city spokesman Mike Conway said. Airport officials were unsuccessful in contacting the school’s managers.

ASA was operating without a business license, Conway said, which amounts to a misdemeanor. The city’s evaluating whether to call for an investigation. Stan Thurston, Gemini’s president, said he heard from a school manager that it was going to suspend its operation until next week. He won’t be selling the school any gasoline until the court case ends, either by a judge’s decision or when the school pays its outstanding bills.