vanishing act

Lost in Translation: English Language School Honchos Disappear Amid Debts

Students at the English-language school ALCC wait for documents and information on the day the school abruptly closed, April 3, 2019.
Students at the English-language school ALCC wait for documents and information on the day the school abruptly closed, April 3, 2019. Photo: Rachel Holliday Smith /THE CITY

Weeks after a popular English-language school abruptly shuttered in Midtown, its owners have vanished, trailed by a string of debts that includes more than $100,000 owed to a firm that processed tuition payments, a lawsuit charges.

Sy Weissman handled credit card business for the American Language Communication Center, or ALCC, for a decade and never had a problem with the school, he told THE CITY.

But on April 3, the 83-year-old proprietor of Card Payment Systems and his employees saw half a dozen “chargebacks” — requests for a refund made on a credit card charge — coming from the ALCC account.

“I thought, something’s wrong here. … It came in (marked) as fraud,” he said. “That was concerning.”

That was the day the ALCC announced it would close after a months-long eviction case, stranding immigrant students who needed their classes for their visas.

Since then, Weissman and his staff say the processing company has received between 10 and 25 ALCC-related chargebacks a day, totalling $137,555.06 as of April 26.

Now, Weissman is pursuing legal action to try to recoup his losses. On Friday, he filed a lawsuit against ALCC in civil court.

Sy Weissman, 83, said his card payment service company is owed more than $100,000 from the ALCC language school, which suddenly closed its midtown location April 3.
Sy Weissman, 83, said his card payment service company is owed more than $100,000 from the ALCC language school, which suddenly closed its midtown location April 3. Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Meanwhile, Weissman’s daughter Sheri, who also works at the family-run processing company, lodged a complaint against the school with the state Attorney General’s office. A spokesperson for Attorney General Letitia James said the office is looking into the matter.

Weissman said the school’s leaders — owner Jean “J.P.” Pachter and his brother, Peter — haven’t responded to multiple calls or emails. He also hasn’t been able to reach the school’s financial controller since the closure.

“These two brothers made up their mind — ‘Well, we’ll screw the credit card company.’ And that’s what they did,” he charged.

The Pachters have not responded to several requests for comment from THE CITY, including calls, emails and multiple messages. Additional efforts to reach them through their attorney on the eviction case were unsuccessful.

‘Have You No Shame?’

Many others are looking for the brothers, too. THE CITY has received dozens of texts, emails and calls from students desperate to get in touch with anyone from the school to settle visa issues or get tuition refunds.

Teachers also are trying to reach the Pachters, saying their final paychecks are bouncing. ALCC teacher Christine Lipner said she’s one of the victims.

Her last check of $287.74 for two weeks of work wasn’t much — ALCC had cut her hours in recent years, she said. But she said the nonpayment felt like a slap in the face after 20 years of teaching at the school.

She said she’s in touch with other teachers who are owed more. So is former ALCC teacher Roxanne Rosado.

Her own paychecks have cleared, but she knows many workers who are owed thousands of dollars as they seek new jobs.

“This is the last check that any of us got from them,” Rosado said. “You wanted to be able to use that little bit of money.”

Lipner had one question for the brothers: “Have you no shame?”

Do you know anything about ALCC closing or its aftermath? We’d like to talk to you. Email reporter Rachel Holliday Smith at rsmith@thecity.nyc or text/WhatsApp 718-866-8674.

Want to republish this story? See our republication guidelines.