Donald Trump Uses Former Students to Fire Back in Trump U Controversy
In court documents, former employee said Trump U “preyed upon the elderly.”
— -- Representatives for Donald Trump today responded to a series of detailed questions related to the alleged fraud at Trump University not with detailed answers of their own, but with a link to a YouTube video featuring several self-identified former students who praised the now-defunct, highly controversial real estate program.
“The courses that I took were outstanding. They were excellent in terms of the quality of the content,” says one former student, identified as Kent Moyer, founder of the security services firm World Protection Group. “In fact, I still have them on my iTunes and my cell phone and listen to them every once in a while.”
The video was published a day after court documents in a California fraud suit against Trump University were made public, including a statement from a former manager who alleged the program was little more than a money-making “scheme.”
“Based upon my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money,” said former Trump University Sales Manager Ronald Schnackenberg, according to the documents.
Schnackenberg said that he worked for Trump University from October 2006 to May 2007, when he resigned because he “believed that Trump University was engaging in misleading, fraudulent and dishonest conduct.”
Another former employee, Corinne Sommer, who worked at the program for a few months in 2007, said Trump University would “lure consumers into the initial free course based on the name and reputation of Donald Trump, and then once they were there, Trump University personnel would try to up-sell consumers to the next course using high-pressure sales tactics.”
“While Trump University’s advertisements claimed it wanted to help customers make money in real estate, in fact, based upon my experience, I believe that Trump University was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they could possibly buy on credit,” Sommer said, according to the court documents.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has been dogged with questions about Trump University for months, but interested was piqued Friday when U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel in California ruled that previously confidential documents entered in as evidence should be made public. Tuesday the court unsealed hundreds of pages of documents, also including what Trump University referred to as “playbooks” -- strategy documents that lay out how its salespeople could best persuade prospective students to spend thousands of dollars on the seminars.
Trump University is the target of two lawsuits in California and one in New York, where New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is pursuing similar fraud-related charges.
Schneiderman brought the suit against Trump in 2013, long before Trump announced he would seek the presidency, and told ABC News Tuesday his case is not political.
“It’s just a straight-up fraud case,” he said. “It was clearly a way to separate people who were desperate to make money in hard economic times from their own cash and to get it into the pocket of Mr. Trump and his cronies.”
In court papers and on the campaign trail Trump has denied the allegations against the program, saying that he “will win the Trump University case.”
In a statement after the court documents were released, Trump’s representatives said the order to unseal the documents “has no bearing on the merits of Trump University’s case.”
“Much of the unsealed evidence, including declarations and surveys from former Trump University students, demonstrates the high level of satisfaction from students and that Trump University taught valuable real estate information. Trump University’s sales tactics are commonplace – no different than other companies in the industry. Trump University looks forward to using this evidence, along with much more, to win when the case is brought before a jury,” the statement said.
But the representatives declined to answer more detailed questions from ABC News, instead letting people like real estate investor Michelle Gunn do the talking.
"I see and hear that there are former Trump University students coming out, and I have to sit back and think to myself, 'If they were given the same information, the same education, the same opportunity, how come they didn’t have the same results?'" Gunn says in the video posted on the Trump campaign’s YouTube channel. "And I think that is because you have to take action upon yourself. You have to go out and make it happen, and apply that – no different to any other education or any other information you may obtain."
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