A Parent’s True Story – A mother and daughter’s story of courage, strength and inspiration. This story is now published in detail, with my daughter speaking out for the first time about the horrors she endured at Carolina Springs Academy. Wit’s End! A Mother and Daughter’s True Story published by Health Communications, Inc (HCI) can be purchased in all major bookstores and online.
By Sue Scheff, Weston, FL
Deception, Misrepresentation & Fraud
After experiencing my good teen making some bad choices, I found myself on the Internet surfing until I was so confused and stressed I couldn’t make any decision. One group of specialty schools and behavior modification programs kept popping up wherever I clicked; I figured they must be good. Then I received their beautiful glossy literature with a video that could make any parent weep (I actually received 4 packets of the same material)! The cost was reasonable in comparison with other programs, or so I thought until I enrolled my child. The hidden costs added up like a grocery bill. I was totally misled by my rash decision. This is a common mistake when parents are placed in a desperate situation and a swift sales rep is waiting for you; answering every question the way you want to hear it and making promises that convince you that they can help your child.
My true nightmare was just beginning.
Impressed by the fancy words and glossy brochures, I enrolled my child with the understanding that they were qualified help. I am ashamed to say, I never did a background check on these programs. I had called their parent references that they gave me (and later found out they were paid to talk to me, some actually receiving a free month’s tuition). I know many of you are thinking I must have been nuts, and you are right. While in this stage of my life, I was in a total frenzy. I truthfully just wanted help for my child and thought for the money I was paying, it must be good.
Long story short, my frenzy and desperation was my biggest mistake I made. This was not what they sold me. It was more of a warehousing of teens program. I was looking for therapy and internalization through the help of professionals. I believe if you take a negative child, and put them in a negative environment, it builds resentment and anger. Literally, this is what I had done. I had no idea as to what I did. Fraud, misrepresentation, combined with a vulnerable parent can lead to danger for a child in my opinion.
I attempted using the so-called Independent Educational Consultant that immediately wanted a check for $350.00 just to talk to me. They claimed they could help me (without even knowing my daughter) for about another $3000.00 or more.
It was a couple of months later, after I attended some very bizarre seminars that were mandated in order to visit your child that I realized I had made a big mistake. I wrote my withdrawal letter immediately after the second seminar. Actually, in retrospect, red flags went up shortly after I dropped my child off and I asked who the psychologist would be, and guess what, there was none, unless I wanted to pay extra! So who led the group therapy they raved about? There was no group therapy, there was a person who sat in a circle with them as they reflected, which was usually another student. I would have hired their psychologist for another $100 per visit, but why? We could have done that at home. Their sales reps told me that there was a licensed therapist “on staff and on site”. I should have pulled my child then, however I thought I was over-reacting since I was in such confusion and frenzy. The staff was very good at convincing me to “trust the program” instead of addressing my concerns.
During my child’s entire stay of almost 6 months, I was never allowed to speak with my child. I only spoke with an employee once a week for about 15 minutes (In my further research, these employees had no credentials and many didn’t have education beyond High School including the President of the Organization). My child wrote me letters: some good, some bad. The good ones were considered manipulation; the bad ones were considered proof that they needed to stay longer. I couldn’t win and neither could my child.
After observing and listening to some of the other teens there and their families, I realized it was all very strange. Some of these kids were there for well over a year and the families were so deep into this program, it was sickening and sad. The support group meetings were like a Stepford Family Reunion, with a leader making her financial profits. These poor kids just wanted to be loved and held by their parents, who couldn’t be there. I later found out it usually takes up to 6 months to speak with your child, and in most cases up to a year to see them. Although they sell you another story, the truth be known, most take 2-3 years to graduation. Recently I understand a law was passed that mandates you can see your child after 3 months. I am not sure if this group of programs is abiding by this new regulation; however, it is in place.
I brought my child home and when she felt confident I wouldn’t send her back, I heard some unspeakable stories. The stories were very consistent with many others I was hearing and reading about. My child went immediately into real counseling where, after almost two years, we are recovering from this traumatic experience in our lives. My child was suffering from depression and nightmares from the stay at Carolina Springs Academy. The fear of being sent back, had created suicidal thoughts, however the excellent psychologist helped my child through this horrible post experience of WWASP. I have heard from many other post-WWASP students and families suffering from the same symptoms, which is very sad.
I firmly believe, until you walk the shoes as a parent of a teen, you really don’t know the feeling of hopelessness. I have been there and I have survived and learned from it. I believe in sharing my knowledge of this, very political, industry with as many families as possible. It is very scary to know that even Independent Educational Consultants (that are supposed to be professionals) have no state or government regulations. In other words, anyone can state they are Educational Consultants. This combined with the misrepresentation of schools and programs, is very frightening and costly in many ways.
Our experiences occurred with Carolina Springs Academy, one of many of their programs that are part of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP aka WWASPS aka Premier Educational Systems). Some of the program names are: Cross Creek Manor – UT, Cross Creek Center – UT, Spring Creek Lodge – MT, Tranquility Bay – Jamaica, Casa By The Sea (closed due to allegations of neglect and abuse), Academy at Dundee Ranch (raided and closed), Academy at Ivy Ridge – NY (accreditation suspended in April 2004; 2005 State Attorney General Spitzer made Ivy Ridge pay approx. $1.65 Millions Dollars in fines and to parents for Educational Fraud), Majestic Ranch – UT, Pacific View, Midwest Academy – IA, Paradise Cove (closed due to allegations of neglect and abuse), Morava Academy (closed due to allegations of neglect and abuse), Darrington Academy – GA, and Horizon’s Academy – NV. I feel all of their programs are simply boot camps that claim internalization; however, lack it tremendously. Their specialty is cash cropping children; marketing and using a child are part of their strategy. They are, in my opinion, a children’s warehouse and a parents’ escape from their desperate situation. Their deluxe *Marketing and Pyramid skills seems to be what they specialize in.
In many parents and professionals’ opinions, the fine line of their cult-like program is enough to destroy many families and children, as we have many testimonials to. (Please review some of our Informational Articles for more true stories). I am speaking from experience. I used to sell their program and market their schools to gain free months’ tuition. Yes, whenever you refer a family, you would get a free month! What a concept, and I fell for it! Being involved in selling the program controls your mind in the consistency of how great they are when in reality, you have not even spoken to your child. I had no idea how the program was working; I was just trained to sell like a good follower.
There are many followers of this program who have become programized. There is many like myself, and more waking up daily. Dateline, Primetime, 48 Hours & Inside Edition has done segments on this organization that paint the same picture of negative experiences. There are many newspaper and magazine articles (including People, Forbes, New York Times, LA Times, News Day, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, Guardian, Jamaican Observer, YM Magazine, Salon, Time Magazine, Spin, etc.) and lawsuits pending against WWASP that they are struggling to keep silent. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire. Why take a chance with your child?
Many wonder why they are allowed to continue, it is simple, money and plenty of it. Money is usually the root of evil, and it seems obvious with this. I am a firm believer that one day WWASP aka WWASPS aka Premier Educational Systems will be held accountable for their actions. The day will come that many truths will be exposed. For the sake of the silent cries of the children, the sooner the better.
First Lawsuit WON Against WWASP:
P.U.R.E. ™ is proud to have defeated WWASP (click here to learn more about this victory) as they attempted to silence P.U.R.E. ™ and myself. Please note that we won in their state of Utah. I believe this is the first of many wins. Additionally, in June of 2006, P.U.R.E. went on to defeat WWASP in the Federal Supreme Court of Appeals.
I hope my experiences have saved parents from making the mistake I made in desperation. I am sharing my personal experiences to create awareness about the misrepresentation and fraud I endured. This story was not written out of malice against WWASP (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs), it was written for the principle and morals that they lacked. I think they call it “Accountability.” I am accountable for what I have written as being the truth as I experienced it.
*As a footnote for their Marketing, when I was searching, I was recruited by a Miami based parent that has made a mission (in many peoples’ opinions) of building this pyramid for WWASP. Although she claimed she had no financial gain from this, we have further learned that she collects large sums of money for her involvement with WWASP. Although she states she makes her income from her Title Company, it was discovered that she was arrested in February 2002 on charges of illegally diverting nearly $6 million in trust money through a variety of schemes. Lynn Pretzfeld, of Miami Florida, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and grand theft.
According to the Florida Department of Insurance, the now closed Title Examiners Inc. diverted money into personal accounts from escrow accounts.
UPDATE – According to public record, on June 3, 2003, Lynn Pretzfeld is now a Convicted Felon and on 10 years probation as well as paying restitution. Case #F02003735B (Click here to view PDF file)
Please note that WWASP seems to make it a habit to change their names. When I was involved, it was WWASP. A couple years ago, it became WWASPS (with an “s”) and presently we understand they are opening under Premier Educational Systems. I assume when parents do Search Engine research, it eliminates any bad press that may be associated with previous names. This is just an opinion. If you have nothing to hide, why the constant name changes?
As of May 2009 it is believed that WWASP aka WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems LLC has affiliations with the following:
Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (CLOSED)
Bell Academy, CA (CLOSED)
Canyon View Park, MT
Camas Ranch, MT
Carolina Springs Academy, SCCasa By the Sea, Mexico (CLOSED)
Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center and Cross Creek Manor)
Darrington Academy, GA (CLOSED)**Discovery – Mexico (see below)
Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.
Gulf Coast Academy, MS (CLOSED)
Horizon Academy, NV
Jane Hawley – Lifelines Family Services
Kathy Allred – Lifelines Sales Representative
Lisa Irvin – Helpmyteen and Teens in Crisis
Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs) Jane Hawley
Mark Peterson – Teen Help Sales Representative
Majestic Ranch, UT
Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, formerly the Director of Paradise Cove as shown on Primetime, is the current Director here)
Parent Teen Guide – Promotes and markets these programs
Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica
Pine View Christian Academy, (Borders FL, AL, MS)
Reality Trek, UT
Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)
Respect Academy, NV
Royal Gorge Academy, CO (CLOSED)
Sherri Schwartzman – Lifelines Sales Representative
Sky View Academy, NV (allegedly closed?)
Spring Creek Lodge, MT (CLOSED) Rumors they have re-opened in another location of MT.
Teen Help, UT (Promotes and markets these programs)
Teens In Crisis – Lisa Irvin
Tranquility Bay, JamaicaOceanside, CA – rumors of short term program there.
**There is reason to believe a new program in Mexico is now open – parents need to be aware of this. It is believed they may have re-opened Casa By the Sea location with another name – possibly Discovery. We have heard that Jade Robinson is running this program – he was formerly at Horizon Academy, Bell Academy (closed) and Casa by the Sea (closed).
In addition to the legal battle with WWASP, P.U.R.E. and founder Sue Scheff won an unprecedented $11.3 million jury verdict for Internet defamation. Despite being vindicated, many of the attacks on P.U.R.E. continue out of malice and spite.
When you can’t defeat someone legally, it seems the Internet/Keypad is the next best legal lethal tool – or so they thought. Pre-Order my next book – Google Bomb, when revenge becomes e-venge to find out how I won this landmark case.