As head of an Allston company that recruited international students, Keenam “Kason” Park collected more than $5 million in tuition and fees from families, money that should have been sent to the private high schools that would be educating the students.
Instead, Park allegedly spent the money lavishly on himself, buying homes in Massachusetts, California, and Korea, and a luxury Aston Martin sports car, according to a federal complaint. When funds ran out and his business, popularly known as Eduboston, was on the brink of closure, Park came up with a scheme to win back the money, traveling twice to Connecticut where he gambled millions of dollars at a casino.
His plan backfired, and he lost $3 million at the casino, according to the complaint.
Now Park is in big legal trouble. On Tuesday, the 59-year-old Weston man faced a federal judge in Boston after federal authorities arrested and charged him with one count of wire fraud for orchestrating what they characterized as a “scheme to defraud private high schools and international students of millions of dollars in tuition and other fees.”
“To date, Park has failed to pay the tuition owed to Eduboston’s partnering schools, advising them that Eduboston is unable to pay,” the complaint said. “In total, Eduboston collected over $5 million from hundreds of students and their families, but instead of paying the students’ tuition and expenses, including host family expenses and medical insurance, Park used the funds on unrelated expenses, including personal expenses.”
If convicted, Park could face up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and other penalties.
It’s unclear if Park remains in federal custody. At a hearing Tuesday, Park said he didn’t have the funds to cover a $250,000 secured bond, according to court documents.
Judge Donald Cabell has placed strict conditions on any release, forbidding Park from traveling outside Massachusetts, possessing firearms, and having contact with any victims or witnesses. Cabell also barred him from gambling. Park cannot even step inside a casino. His next hearing will be Dec. 11.
In a statement, Park’s attorney Vikas Dhar, who is based in Charlestown, said, “For almost 20 years Mr. Park has helped students acclimate themselves from overseas into high schools and other educational institutions all over the country. He has no prior record, has roots in the greater Boston community, and he looks forward to his day in court.”
Park’s arrest comes as many Catholic and private schools have been banking heavily on foreign-student recruitment to help remedy declining enrollment and to diversify their student bodies. Park’s business, which closed in September and was officially known as K&B Education Group, had been partnering with schools in Massachusetts and other states for about a decade or longer.
Park played a critical role: His business had people on the ground in many countries, especially China, where they would connect students and families with a high school in the United States. Many parents viewed the prospect of studying abroad as a way to give their children a potential leg up in getting admitted to the best college possible.
But since the company abruptly shut down in September, high schools and families — some of whom also paid tuition for the 2020-21 school year — have been trying to wade through the financial mess. Cape Cod Academy in Osterville has been the most aggressive, filing a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court in September that seeks to secure $763,950 in tuition that Eduboston collected from 20 international students for this school year, but never sent to the school.
Federal authorities announced Park’s arrest on Wednesday, a day after Park appeared in court and as many schools were dismissing students for the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend or were already closed.
Cape Cod Academy was measured in its response to the charges, when contacted for comment.
“This latest development seems to us to be a normal step in the legal process,” Chad Small, Cape Cod’s interim head of school, said in a statement.
Legal problems for Park have been mounting for years. A former business partner filed a lawsuit this summer in California seeking to recoup $3 million he invested in Park’s company. That lawsuit contends that Park inappropriately used the money to pay off debt and for other businesses he operated. Federal authorities also seized possession of Park’s Aston Martin Virage in 2014 after he defaulted on a student loan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation launched the current investigation into Park’s international student recruiting firm in October. Under Park’s arrangement with US high schools, his company recruited and collected tuition payments and other fees from international students, which he then was supposed to forward to the schools and host families who would be caring for the students. The company also collected money for the students’ health insurance and for its own recruiting services.
The complaint does not identify any high schools or students by name. But the first anonymous school listed in the complaint appears to be Cape Cod Academy. The complaint notes that “partnering school A” was located in Osterville and was owed $763,950 — the exact amount listed in the academy’s Suffolk lawsuit. Other schools were identified as being located in Chestnut Hill and Kingston. The complaint details how families in China wired money to Eduboston and how one student at the Chestnut Hill school was told to pay the tuition again — directly to the school.
Documents about the school’s finances obtained by the FBI indicated Park spent $600,000 in 2013 to purchase a house in Korea and $1.8 million to buy a home in Weston, and he also gave a church in Korea a $500,000 gift.
“The document also recorded capital losses, listed as short term trading losses, in the amount of $3.25 million,” the complaint said.
Earlier this year, Park planned to sell the company and hired a turnaround team to keep the company going amid its financial troubles.
“Park told the former general manager that when Eduboston became successful, Park lost sight of his principles, made bad decisions, and spent too much money,” the complaint said.