WHISTLEBLOWERS TAKE ON A FOR-PROFIT SCHOOL DEFRAUDING STUDENTS AND THE GOVERNMENT, AND A BIOFUEL COMPANY IS RUNNING A $100 MILLION SCAM, ON THE SEASON FINALE OF "WHISTLEBLOWER," FRIDAY, AUGUST 31
"The Case Against Globe U; The Case of the 100 Million Dollar Scam" - Students trust that the schools they give their money to will provide them with a good education and a path to a promising future. But one whistleblower was forced to take a stand when she believed that the for-profit school she was working for was ripping off both students and the government.
Host Alex Ferrer investigates the case of Globe University and another about a biofuel company that was running a massive scam against the government, in WHISTLEBLOWER, Friday, August 31 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
After a 15-year career as a medical assistant in Sioux Falls, S.D., Heidi Weber agreed to take a job teaching her trade to students at Globe University, a for-profit college with 16 campuses in three states. Soon, she was promoted to dean of the medical assistant program, overseeing more than a dozen campuses. But upon relocating to Minnesota to start the job, she immediately became concerned.
"It was a mess. There was no curriculum," she says. "I had students that couldn't read. I had students that didn't speak English. I'm supposed to be teaching them to save people's lives and they can't even add a two-digit number in their head."
Weber soon came to believe that the school put profit above all else. Not only did they make empty promises about job placement rates and potential salaries for students, but they also actively sought out students eligible for federal money, including preying on military personnel eligible for federal funds under the G.I. Bill.
"They were more focused on getting students than teaching students," Weber says of students who were left with little education and a mountain of debt. "It was about how much federal taxpayer money they could get their hands on."
Weber brought her concerns to the school and was told that it was none of her concern. Eventually - and without warning - Globe University fired her, even though she had recently received a positive performance review and a raise. Weber had enough and filed a wrongful termination case under state whistleblower law. And even though such cases are usually settled out of court, Globe opted to go to trial. But who would the jury believe?
WHISTLEBLOWER is a series that takes a thrilling look into the real-life David vs. Goliath stories of heroic people who put everything on the line in order to expose illegal and often dangerous wrongdoing when major corporations rip off U.S. taxpayers. Each edition introduces cases in which ordinary people step up to do the extraordinary by risking their careers, their families and even their lives to ensure others are not harmed or killed by unchecked, unethical corporate greed.
Sasha Chepurko, who uncovered a massive green energy scam and became one of the youngest whistleblowers nationwide at age 21, is one of those people.
Midway through college, Chepurko dropped out to start a career in trading. He soon began working for Caravan Trading, a New Jersey-based company that said it bought and sold the raw materials for making biofuel, a type of diesel derived from products like soybean, corn and recycled cooking oil. The company was run by Joe Furando, who had a large personality - and a violent temper to match.
Although Caravan was making $50 million a year, Chepurko was puzzled by the fact that 90% of its business came from one customer: e-Biofuels, an Indiana-based company that Chepurko was told turned Caravan Trading's raw materials into biodiesel. What's more, e-Biofuels was overpaying the market rate per gallon, making it difficult for him to find new customers willing to pay the same.
Chepurko was shocked when, out of the blue, Furando admitted to him that it was all a big scam. Instead of buying raw materials for making biodiesel and selling it to e-Biofuels, Caravan was buying and selling the finished biodiesel to e-Biofuels. e-Biofuels then pretended it made the biodiesel by faking paperwork. It simply resold the same biodiesel it bought from Caravan. Both companies pocketed lucrative government incentives and tax breaks for making green energy products.
"I was probably most scared about being scapegoated by Joe," says Chepurko, who was worried he would be set up to take the fall if the fraud were ever uncovered. "I thought that I had to protect myself, and I thought that I had to get proof of what was going on so people would believe me."
Chepurko began to collect evidence and secretly recorded conversations where Furando openly discussed the ongoing fraud, which investigators say totaled more than $100 million. He was later fired by Furando and began working with the DOJ, EPA, SEC and IRS to build a case against Caravan. But would his evidence be enough, and could he avoid the violent reach of his former employer?
Emmy Award winner Susan Zirinsky (48 HOURS, 48 HOURS: NCIS)
serves as senior executive producer. Alex Ferrer and Ted Eccles serve as executive producers. WHISTLEBLOWER is produced by CBS News for CBS Television Studios.