Education

For-Profit College Owner Hired PRIVATE EYE To Tail Reporter

The owner of a for-profit college in Florida employed a private eye to tail a reporter from the Miami Herald because the reporter had written unfavorable stories about the school and the for-profit education industry.

Ernesto Perez, the founder and principal owner of Dade Medical College, hired private investigator Carlos de Varona to follow Miami Herald reporter Michael Vasquez, the Herald reports.

The contract for the private investigation featured a handwritten note which read: “Target: Michael Vasquez.”

The Miami Herald discovered the surveillance of its staffer after de Varona sued the Dade Medical College majority owner in small-claims court. De Varona had sued Perez because Perez had allegedly failed to cough up $4,971.87 for the surveillance.

The small-claims suit, filed in August, claims that Perze hired de Varona, P.I. to “follow a Miami Herald reporter and document his activity.”

De Varona, a former Hialeah, Fla. police officer whose investigative efforts provide “quality results in a timely manner,” says he billed the for-profit college owner for 75 hours of work, a report and a surveillance video.

The Miami Herald learned about the lawsuit last month.

Perez did not apparently retain de Varona directly. Instead, court documents show, the Coral Gables law firm of Rasco Klock Perez Nieto retained the sleuth.

The same law firm represented Perez and Dade Medical College in a 2014 defamation lawsuit against the Herald. (Vasquez, the reporter, was also a named defendant.) The lawsuit failed.

The revelation that Perez hired a private dick to spy on a reporter at a major newspaper is the least of his troubles — or the troubles of Dade Medical College.

On Friday, Dade Medical College shuttered all six of its campuses across Florida — possibly forever — after the U.S. Department of Education placed the for-profit school on a “Heightened Cash Monitoring list,” reports South Florida NBC affiliate WPTV.

Placement on the monitoring list is a financial deathblow for most any U.S. college or university because it means a delay in precious federal student loan funding. The feds have also filed a $4.6 million federal lawsuit against Dade Medical College.

Additionally, Perez is expected to plead guilty to perjury charges on Tuesday morning.

There is good news for de Varona, though.

“The bill had been paid,” the private investigator told the Herald. “He heard about it and he paid me.”

Dade Medical College still has a website. It trumpets coursework and degrees in programs including nursing, physical therapy and diagnostic medical ultrasound.

At GradReports.com, a student-generated college review website, Dade Medical College receives two highly negative reviews.

Leaders of colleges in Florida have acquitted themselves poorly in recent months. In August, Matt McEnany, the president of a branch campus of Keiser University, met up with two twentysomething women named “Luscious” and “Brittany” for an apparent attempt at a threesome. Before sparks could fly, however, the 60-year-old college president was reportedly hit upside the head by an unidentified assailant who then took his wallet and $100 he just happened to have readily in his pocket. His 2011 Toyota Venza was stolen. Daytona Beach police chief Mike Chitwood said McEnany “had every intention of having a rendezvous with these women.” (RELATED: College President Carjacked Just Before Possible Threesome With ‘Luscious’ And ‘Brittany’)

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