Cosmetology students scammed by school owner

Imagine you walk into beauty school on the first day with high hopes and big dreams, with an open mind and ready to learn. Imagine you paid a flat rate - upfront - for a great education in the hopes that you could graduate debt-free, prepared to start an amazing career in cosmetology. Now, imagine that three weeks later you're told that the school is shutting down, that the owner was a scam artist and that you've lost thousands of dollars.

It happened to a cosmetology class in Pitman, New Jersey. Last week, 21-year-old Morgan Supczenski and her 20 classmates learned that JMJ School of Beauty was no longer a licensed, legitimate beauty school and that it would be closing, taking their hard-earned money and cosmetology hours with it.

Just three weeks after the students started school on September 6 to take a comprehensive cosmetology program covering hair, nails, makeup, sanitation and massage therapy, the state board came to the school to do routine inspections. The board found that there were numerous problems with the school's paperwork and that the license had expired in July.

"As far as the New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology was concerned, none of us were even registered as cosmetology students in the state of New Jersey," Supczenski said.

According to Supczenski, the entire staff except for one teacher quit immediately. The one remaining teacher - who wished to remain anonymous - said she would stick it out, unpaid, for the sake of the students.

"There was a plethora of emotions," Supczenski said. "I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I was angry. I was hurt. I think the main feeling that we all had is that we felt abandoned. We felt left behind, as if no one cared."

The New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology tried to accommodate the ailing students by allowing them to continue having classes at the school. However, matters got worse on Friday, September 23, when the landlord for the building evicted the school for lack of payment. The students arrived to find the locks changed.

Supczenski said the class of about 20 students plans to stick together. They have approached several cosmetology schools in the area, including Salem County Vo-Tech and Gloucester County Vo-Tech, to see what they could do to help. She said they hope to go in as a class and that their teacher can come with them.

"We like our class," she said. "It would be difficult going in and starting again. We got along really well. We were all there for one purpose - to start our careers. We all enjoyed what we were doing. We became a close, tight-knit family. I consider them my family now."

The students hope they can carry their hours over and perhaps recuperate some of their money, but if they do manage to get their money back, it may not be for a couple of years.

On Thursday, school owner Dana Kearney - who has several known aliases - was found by the police hiding at her mother's house and taken into custody. If legal action is taken against her, Supczenski says she will "absolutely" participate. In the end, Supczenski says she's glad she could be there. Had she not decided to attend this cosmetology school, she couldn't have been a part of this and the woman may not have gotten caught.

Supczenski has not ever met Kearney face-to-face, but she has thought a lot about what she would say if she ever got the chance to confront her.

"I would just ask her one question," Supczenski said of the school owner, Dana Kearney. 'Why? How could you do this to people? You're messing with people's lives.'

"Cosmetology is a profession - not a joke, not our fallback plan," Supczenski said. "It's what we love to do. My goal is to own my own salon. I'm not one to give up. I will get it."

**Note: We have reached out to the New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology regarding this story and to get details on what it entails to get an initial school license. We have not heard back from them at this time but will hopefully be able to post a followup story soon.