Dalton police open criminal investigation into now closed beauty school

Marielle Wottring says she was paying for her schooling at GBA out of pocket. (Image: WTVC)

A criminal investigation is underway into a now-shut-down beauty school.

After more than a week-long investigation, NewsChannel 9 is first to tell you about what led up to the school's closing.

Friday, Dalton Police say they opened a case into the Georgia Beauty Academy.

A police report says students showed officers signatures they say were forged on financial aid documents.

According to a purchase agreement, a new owner bought the school at the end of May.

That new owner says she's trying to help the students, but was unaware of how the academy had been operating.

We obtained records from the state Board of Cosmetology showing at least one of the instructors at the school did not have the proper license to teach.

Marielle Wottring says she was paying for her schooling at GBA out of pocket.

But, when she saw her school file this week she says she found these papers she didn't expect to.

"There were three different financial aid papers in my folder," Wottring said. "I've never applied for financial aid. There were scholarship papers in my folder whited out with different numbers."

Two different-looking signatures appear on the forms, but Wottring says she didn't pen either of them.

That's why Dalton Police say officers have opened a criminal investigation.

Police say nine students have filed reports against the school in the last week.

Wottring and her colleague Pamela Cooper say other beauty schools are telling them their hours may not transfer.

Both of their certificates from the Georgia Beauty Academy list an "esthetic instructor" who does not appear to have an instructor's license in the state database. According to state law, it's something one would need one to train estheticians.

"So now my 400 and something hours may not even apply," Cooper said. "I may have to start all over."

"Even if all of this wouldn't have blown up, once I graduated from this school, my license would have meant nothing," Wottring said.

When you look up the Georgia Beauty Academy online, you find its website has been taken down.

However, using a web archive tool called the Wayback Machine, we found a version of the school's website from December 2017.

On it, the school advertises an esthetics program along with cosmetology and nail programs.

However, the school's license from the state only lists four licensed cosmetology instructors - no esthetic instructors.

"We've been wronged, and something needs to be done about it," Cooper said.

A spokesperson for the federal Department of Education tells NewsChannel 9 the Georgia Beauty Academy failed to report a change in ownership in 2013.

When the department says it discovered that this year, it revoked the school's ability to accept students on financial aid.

We're working to figure out what impact that will have on students who were enrolled.

The state's cosmetology board says 15 complaints have recently been filed about the Georgia Beauty Academy.

We reached out to the attorney for the previous owner of the school by phone and email several times this week.

He said he did not have information on the licensure issues and did not respond to our other questions.

He also declined our request for an on-camera interview.

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