Former principal alleged to have defrauded renters

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 8/26/2021, 6 p.m.
For at least five years, Dr. Carl S. Vaughan appeared to offer a lifeline to people facing barriers to securing …
Mr. Vaughan

For at least five years, Dr. Carl S. Vaughan appeared to offer a lifeline to people facing barriers to securing a place to live.

The former Armstrong High School principal’s creative approach was to lease apartments or homes at reduced rate from owners and then sublet the residences to people with bad credit or other problems that prevented them from renting directly.

To create cash flow, he charged the tenants $100 or so extra a month in rent above what he was required to pay, pushing for volume.

Citing his education credentials, he also promised those who sublet that they would receive a variety of “wraparound” services to get them back on their feet, including credit and behavior counseling, assistance in finding employment, tutoring in household management and help in obtaining a GED.

He allegedly charged a $50 processing fee to those who enrolled in the additional services and added an additional monthly charge for those services.

The only problem: It was all a fraud, according to Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring.

In a scathing civil lawsuit filed Aug. 18 in Richmond Circuit Court, Mr. Herring’s office alleges that Dr. Vaughan never provided the services, never responded to requests for repairs to the units he subleased and, until 2019, never disclosed to those from whom he rented that he was subletting the residences.

To add insult to injury, according to the complaint, Dr. Vaughan “aggressively evicted, often based on inaccurate billing and payment records,” relying on arbitrary rules and regulations that were undefined to act against tenants, particularly those who complained about the condition of their units.

Between 2016 and the filing of the lawsuit, Mr. Herring’s office alleges that Dr. Vaughan’s company, JumpStart University, signed lease contracts with 275 people and sought evictions against 200.

The complaint alleges that Dr. Vaughan also had prospective tenants sign contracts that violated the Landlord-Tenant Act as well as the state’s consumer protection law and often refused to return security deposits on bogus grounds.

The suit names Dr. Vaughan and the two companies he ran the operation through, JumpStart University Inc. and Vasilios Educational Center Inc., and requests that Dr. Vaughan and his companies be hit with heavy fines of $2,500 for each violation, that he make full restitution to the tenants who suffered financial injury and that the companies essentially be shut down.

Dr. Vaughan, who was forced to resign from Richmond Public Schools 15 years ago after six Armstrong teachers and staff members complained he sexually harassed them, has not yet responded to the civil filing.

The lawsuit states that 275 people sublet units from Dr. Vaughan and his companies since 2016, indicating Dr. Vaughan could face more than $500,000 in fines if the court upholds the request.

Mr. Herring filed the lawsuit the day after Dr. Vaughan settled with a former tenant, Sherita Cotton, who had sued him on virtually the same grounds that Mr. Herring alleged in his complaint.

Dr. Vaughan, according to the suit, “used his companies to take advantage of Virginians who were in tough financial situations — selling them a bill of goods that he would never be able to fulfill.”