AG James Wins Suit Against AAUCONNECT for Misleading Consumers
AAUCONNECT.COM Ordered to Refund Former
Customers; Owners Forced to Shut Down Program
BINGHAMTON – Attorney General Letitia James today delivered justice for families who were misled and deceived by the owners of an Endicott-based high school and post-graduate basketball program. AAUCONNECT advertised itself as a premier basketball training program, but actually took money from families and did not provide promised training, housing, and education. Attorney General James sued, and this week the court ordered that AAUCONNECT owners issue refunds to former customers and banned them from owning or operating any high school program and post-graduate high school basketball business now and into the future.
“Justice has been served for these students who were hoping for a shot at their dreams,” said Attorney General James. “My office will not tolerate these deceptive practices that cheat students and parents out of their future and their wallets. I am pleased that we were able to shut this fraudulent operation down and secure refunds for all those impacted.”
The Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit in September 2018 alleging that AAUCONNECT.COM, Chris Bevin, and Hazel Ward advertised unverified claims that their program is the #1 post-graduate boys and girls basketball program in the northeast, “the best in New York,” and has “the very best coaching, training & educational facilities and college placement service.” AAUCONNECT.COM offers athletes from around the world the opportunity to participate in a ten-month New York International Academy High School or six-month post-graduate program. Consumers also complained that Bevin and Ward, who held the roles of CEO and Admissions Counselor for the company, were absentee owners that lived outside of the United States and were never present to supervise the program or address problems that arose.
AAUCONNECT failed to clearly disclose to consumers that any payments are non-refundable or that they charged significant fees for late payments. Additionally, they failed to pay refunds after consumers left the program due to Bevin and Ward not providing the advertised services and accommodations.
Going forward, the Attorney General’s Office will provide the court with information regarding which participants are entitled to the refunds, the calculation of the total amount for each refund, and the basis for those calculations. The office has until August 31, 2020 to fulfill these obligations. Attorney General James encourages any additional consumers who believe that they may have been damaged by Mr. Bevin, Ms. Ward, and AAUCONNECT to file a complaint, along with proof of loss, with the Attorney General’s Binghamton Regional Office by August 15, 2020.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Binghamton Regional Office Michael J. Danaher, Jr. with the assistance of former Investigator Stephanie Gerwel, Investigators Kathleen Coppersmith and Erin Dirado, and under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber and First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.