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Defrauded Immigrant Families Paid Back Scammed Tuition Money

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TWC News: Defrauded Immigrant Families Paid Back Scammed Tuition Money
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About a hundred Chinese immigrant families are paid back thousands of dollars of tuition money after being scammed by operators of a fake ESL school.

The families thought they were signing their children up for English as a second language classes at three Sunset Park schools called the Chinatown Outreach Ministry last summer.

When kids showed up for class they found all the doors locked and the schools empty.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office issued $25,000 dollars in checks to the families Monday.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson says victims of these crimes should speak up.

"We have this new immigrant fraud unit that's there to protect all immigrants, whether they're in the country legally or undocumented. And so this is an example of what we can do when the community lets us know that there are con artists who are taking advantage of people," Thompson said.

The operators of the school, Patrick and Joanne Panettieri, pled guilty to a scheme to defraud, and petty larceny last September.

They agreed to pay full restitution in exchange for a reduced charge.

Investigators say the couple ran a similar scam back in 2002. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP