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Aus: Agent arrested for alleged fraud

The director of Sydney-based education agency, Quack Study, has been arrested and will face court on charges of alleged fraud, sparking calls within the industry to change payment methods for students.

Students complained to police over irregularities in tuition fee and health insurance payments.Students complained to police over irregularities in tuition fee and health insurance payments.

40 international students complained to police over alleged irregularities in health insurance and tuition fee payments

Jorge Armando Becerra Perea was arrested in July after around 40 international students, predominantly from Colombia and Peru, complained to police over alleged irregularities in health insurance and tuition fee payments. Providers ranged from ELICOS institutions through to universities.

“There really does have to be some differentiation in accounts”

Quack Study is the latest agency to come under suspicion of unscrupulous behaviour, after the owners of Tu Futuro en Australia disappeared from their Brisbane-based offices in 2017, after allegedly scamming up to $1m in students’ tuition fees.

At the time, industry stakeholders believed the agency might have been taking in students’ tuition payments on behalf of providers and using them to invest or cover operational costs, before hitting financial troubles.

Robert Parsonson, organiser of education agent symposium Sympled, said most agents adhere to best practice, but better models of payment were needed to ensure transparency.

“We do have agents who are playing with students’ money and using tuition fees for cash flow purposes,” he said.

“At any time, agents can be handling a lot of tuition on behalf of a number of providers. There really does have to be some differentiation in accounts, much like migration agents have to have a client account or trust account to separate the money when the money comes in.”

Recent changes to Australia’s National Code for International Education effectively put into law 2016’s Agent Code of Ethics, which includes instructions on receiving payments, to reduce unethical behaviour.

According to Quack Study’s website, which is still active, the agency was accredited by English UK, Professional International Education Resources, New Zealand Education and Austrade. It appears at one time, the agency employed at least two people with Qualified Education Agent Counsellor status from PIER.

There are no active listings on the English UK, Study in New Zealand, or Austrade websites, however, the agency still appears on PIER’s website using a search engine.

A quick online search shows Quack Study is still listed on PIER's website.

A quick online search shows Quack Study is still listed on PIER’s website.

In response to concerns over the behaviour of onshore migration agents, the Australian government launched a parliamentary enquiry into migration agents in March. The next hearing was scheduled for 22 August.

Perea will face court again on 17 September.

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