Va. indicts trade school owner NTS operates 2 locations in Md.

October 18, 1990|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

The owner and president of the National Training Systems Inc., which operates trade schools in Glen Burnie and Laurel, Md., as well as in Richmond, Va., has been indicted in Virginia on 46 counts of grand theft stemming from the NTS truck-driving school in Richmond.

Charles R. Longo, 46, was arrested Tuesday and was ordered held without bond yesterday by Prince George's County District Court Judge Sherrie Krauser. He was in the Prince George's County Detention Center, awaiting extradition to Richmond, said David Eberhart, a prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The charges of grand theft carry penalties of up to 920 years in prison.

Leonard L. Lucchi, Longo's attorney, yesterday refused to comment on the indictment. He said Longo, who owns a house in Annapolis and rents an apartment in Laurel, told him he was confused about the charges.

Longo and NTS have also been under scrutiny by the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which in August ordered Longo to remove himself as manager of the Glen Burnie and Laurel schools and to refund tuition payments to students who dropped out of NTS before graduating.

The state charged that Longo has falsified student records to avoid paying the refunds, a practice Longo denied.

The Virginia indictment stems from charges that Longo -- through a NTS "satellite" campus in Richmond -- has embezzled about $138,000 in student tuition fees, destroyed student records and funneled state and federal loan money to start a new shipping business in Laurel called Shippers Choice, Eberhart said.

An NTS maintenance employee yesterday answered the NTS' Laurel telephone as "NTS/Shippers Choice."

NTS of Virginia also added a computer curriculum which was not approved for loan funds from the state and enrolled computer students as truck driving students so they would qualify for financial aid, Eberhart said.

Virginia officials seized nine trucks belonging to Shippers Choice last week, the prosecutor added.

"We have had zillions of complaints from NTS students. Ad nauseam. Ad infinitum," Eberhart said. "Longo knew he could not train these students and then cashed the valid checks. We believe a majority of the loan funds have ended up in Shippers Choice. He's not out of the education business and into the shipping business."

The Maryland NTS each year enrolls about 4,000 students who pay for courses with state loans and grants.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission charged last summer that NTS did not refund at least 200 state students who attended trade courses not approved by the state or did not complete courses and were due refunds. Higher Education Secretary Shaila Aery ordered NTS to post a bond as insurance that students would be able to complete their education at another trade school if NTS went out of business.

An administrative hearing was held on that order in September; no decision has been reached, a commission spokesman said.

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