They’re experienced educators who were promised good money for teaching struggling South Florida students, but before they even got a paycheck, the online academy where they worked vanished. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.
Caleb Matthews lives in California.
Caleb Matthews: “Somebody took advantage of all of us.”
Regina Dorsett and Victoria Dotson in Maryland.
Victoria Dotson: “I would love some sort of justice.”
And Nicky Flloyd in New York. They are all are livid.
Nicky Flloyd: “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. We wasted two entire months of our lives.”
Earlier this year, they took remote jobs at Excel Online Academy, a company they were told was based in Miami and headed by a man named David. The mission was to create a virtual learning program for students who fell behind during the pandemic.
Regina Dorsett: “I was like, ‘OK, this is a great program.'”
They were told many of the children they’d be helping were Miami-Dade County Public School students.
Nicky Flloyd: “I was all in this program thinking we’re doing something that’s going to help people and help kids be able to reach their dream and succeed.”
The educators, hired from across the country got to work. They developed word games and quizzes. Entire curriculums were created, many of them pulling seven-day work weeks loaded with overtime. Victoria thought at $36 an hour, it would be worth the massive paycheck.
Victoria Dotson: “I would be essentially making way more hourly than I do currently as a teacher.”
But there was a red flag.
Regina Dorsett: “I taught in Miami-Dade’s school system, and I know it’s a black and brown school district.”
When David sent Regina these spreadsheets of the Miami-Dade students she would be helping, she grew suspicious.
Regina Dorsett: “When I’m seeing Sarah, Jack, there were a lot of Caucasian names, and I said, ‘Oh, my God.'”
And Regina thought it was odd David would never take a phone or video call.
Regina Dorsett: “He was not reachable. The only contact that anyone had with David was through email.”
Regina, Caleb, Victoria and Nicky then went from suspicious to outraged when their first pay day on March 18th arrived.
Victoria Dotson: “It is the 18th, and I haven’t heard a word on where this money is, where it’s coming or going or so on.”
Shortly thereafter, the Excel Online Academy website was taken down, and employee email accounts were deleted.
Victoria Dotson: “So the company today is totally gone. I should have earned right under $20,000.”
Nicky Flloyd: “They owed me $93,000. I want to like, get the word out so people can know if they see something that pops up like this, take heed, because we had almost 100 employees past and present, and no one has been paid.”
Employees were told Excel’s main office was located at 444 Brickell Avenue, but the front desk staff at the building say they never heard of Excel Online Academy. We also could not find the company listed in Florida business records, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools tells us, “We are not aware of Excel Online Academy and do not have any affiliation.”
It all leaves the former employees thinking this:
Victoria Dotson: “Every single piece of it was made up. It was a scam.”
Nicky Flloyd: “It’s disheartening to know that someone would use educators’ passion and a multitude of educators who already aren’t paid enough to run a full-fledged scam like this.”
Excel employees were told the program was funded by education grants. Did Excel just take the money and shut down? We tried to find out, but the U.S. Department of Education will not say if Excel Online Academy is being investigated. Kevin Ozebek, 7News.
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