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12 lawsuits filed alleging racketeering against MSU

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A Shepherdstown attorney said Dec. 6 that he has filed 12 federal lawsuits and plans to file 10 more on behalf of former Mountain State University students who accuse the school of racketeering activity.

One of the 12 suits was filed Dec. 4 by Silver Spring, Md., resident Loveline Asonganyi, a former Mountain State University student enrolled in the LPN BSN cohort nursing program. Asonganyi filed the suit against ousted MSU President Charles H. Polk, Mountain State University Inc, Mountain State University Building Co., Mountain State University Foundation Inc. and the Mountain State University Endowment fund.

The suit alleges defendants engaged in a "widespread criminal enterprise consisting of a pattern of racketeering activity and a conspiracy to engage in racketeering activity involving numerous racketeering acts during the past 10 calendar years."

The suit also alleged the school committed mail and wire fraud.

Describing Polk as the "leader of the MSU Enterprise," the suit took issue with the former president's salary, saying his 2009 salary was approximately $1,843,746.

The student alleged Polk's salary made up 3.5 percent of MSU's annual budget, "which was the highest percentage received by a president from the annual budget of a private university in 2009," the suit asserts.

"Defendant Polk encouraged lying, dishonesty, wrongdoing, unethical conduct, immoral conduct, misleading representation, false promises, and deceptive practices among MSU faculty and staff, in order to acquire enormous financial wealth for himself," the suit alleged

The lawsuit also alleged Polk "directed lavish spending of the illicit gains of the racketeering proceeds" to create a life-size statute of himself and to purchase two airplanes for his personal use.

Asonganyi also alleged MSU made fraudulent representations regarding the accreditation status of the school's cohort nursing program, the time it would take to complete her degree, the time it would take to graduate and whether she would be able to sit for her nursing exams.

Asonganyi asserts MSU "pressured" her to quit her job or take on a part-time job to "incur maximum student loan debt." 

Now, Asonganyi says she cannot sit for her license exams, and she has incurred substantial debt "for nothing."

A similar lawsuit was filed earlier this year by the Skinner law firm in Jefferson County Circuit Court. The suit was filed against Polk, MSU, the MSU Building Co., MSU Foundation Inc. and MSU Endowment Fund and also alleged there was a pattern of racketeering activity and a conspiracy to engage in racketeering in the past 10 years.

Sherman Lambert Sr., a Shepherdstown attorney who filed the most recent suit, said his cases differ because his clients are "prerequisites." This means that his clients were taking prerequisite classes before taking the nursing courses, as opposed to the other lawsuit where students were already in their major.

Lambert said his students also were not reimbursed for tuition as opposed to other students.

"Fatouma Kamara is the lead in our case," Lambert explained. "She is the one who came into my office months ago and called this to our attention."

When asked if he thought cases would end up before the state's Mass Litigation Panel, Lambert said he would not be opposed to the idea.