College principal jailed over bogus courses scam

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The Independent Online

A college principal once feted as education's "wonder woman" was jailed today for conning overseas students into enrolling for bogus courses

Roselle Antoine, who was honoured with an MBE for her services to education, was given an eight-month custodial sentence after luring a number of Jamaicans into signing up for worthless qualifications in the UK.



She was also found guilty of providing immigration services to students when not qualified to do so.



Recorder Catherine Newman QC said Antoine "offered them the earth" but gave them "very little to go away with".



Antoine, 55, from Greenford, Middlesex, will serve at least four months of her sentence behind bars. In addition she was ordered to pay three victims a total of £3,550 in compensation and court costs of £5,000.



Antoine's offences date back to March 2004.



She would promise visas to overseas students if they enrolled at TCS Tutorial College in north west London.



But the courses were fake and the so-called qualifications were not worth the paper they were written on.



As a result the students wasted years of study, leaving some more than £2,500 out of pocket, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.



Not all of the students at the college were on fake courses, the jury was told during her trial, but prosecutor Ben Lloyd said that did not excuse the occasions when the line was crossed and the law broken.



In mitigation, her lawyer James Cartwright said Antoine's college had done good work.



"She has put a lot of energy into the services provided for disadvantaged people," he said.



But the judge said the crimes were serious enough to warrant a custodial service.



"You offered them the earth and gave them very little in return. They were vulnerable, they trusted you and you let them down very badly."



She continued: "In essence you took their money but you offered them a poor quality course which gave them very little to go away with."



In a nod to her previous reputation, the judge added: "This is a very, very serious fall from grace."



As she delivered the sentence, the defendant hung her head in silence.



Gasps of "yes" were heard in the public gallery from her victims.



The judge gave Antoine three three-month sentences for knowingly making false statements in relation to the conned students - in all there were four counts. One month was removed from the sentence in view of her mitigation.



No further sentences were given for eight counts of providing immigration services when not qualified to do so.



The court also heard that the defendant had a previous conviction, dating back to 1991, for obtaining property by deception.



Speaking after the verdict, one of Antoine's victims, Auvalyn Howell, from north-west London, said she was still bitter but welcomed the fact that Antoine was facing a spell behind bars.



Originally from Jamaica, Miss Howell studied at TCS Tutorial College for four years but left without any valid qualifications.



"This brings some form of closure but there is no punishment that would make up for what she has done to me.



"I am still depressed. I have wasted four years of my life."



She added: "This woman needs to be taught a lesson. She has destroyed so many peoples lives."