ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Donald Trump has spent a lot of time recently fielding questions about one of his more controversial business ventures. Trump University promised to teach ordinary people how to be successful in real estate. Well, now it's the subject of several lawsuits accusing it of fraud.
Among its former students is a retiree from Long Island who paid $35,000 to participate. He is now one of Trump University's most vocal critics, and for that, he has been publicly attacked by Trump himself, as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Bob Guillo's involvement with Trump University began seven years ago. His grown son had paid $1,500 for a three-day course that promised to teach people how to make money in real estate. It took place at a hotel in Manhattan, and Guillo went along to listen.
BOB GUILLO: The first thing that they said was, guys, Mr. Trump is a multibillionaire, and he doesn't need your money. He's doing this to be benevolent and to allow people like you to become successful like he is.
ZARROLI: Guillo says the speakers were really inspiring. They played the theme song from "The Apprentice." And he says right away they began pressuring those attending to sign up for more classes. If you said you wanted to take some time to think about it, they turned up the heat.
GUILLO: They try to embarrass you, saying, why do you have to talk to your wife, or why do you have to talk to your husband? Can't you make decisions by yourself? We're offering you an opportunity of a lifetime here.
ZARROLI: So Guillo ended up taking $35,000 out of his IRA to join the Trump University's Gold Elite program. It was a year-long program of seminars and mentoring sessions designed to teach people about real estate. Guillo says the information provided was pretty worthless. A lot of it was just pointing people to websites such as trulia.com or irs.gov.
GUILLO: I knew about those websites before I walked into Trump University. So the more and more I got involved in Trump University, the more and more I found out that I had truly been scammed.
GUILLO: Trump University officials dispute that. They say the program provided an extensive amount of information about the real estate industry. In fact, they say many people complained it was too detailed. Guillo ended up going to Trump University officials and demanding his money back.
When he didn't get it, he filed a complaint with the New York Attorney General's Office, and he appeared in a TV commercial funded by a group tied to Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Trump maintains that the vast majority of people who attended the program were happy with it. He even singled out Guillo in a speech.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
DONALD TRUMP: So you have this guy Bob Guillo He appeared in TV attack ads even though he rated the programs a five, meaning excellent - the top mark - across the board.
ZARROLI: Guillo says it's true. When the program was nearly over, he filled out a card giving Trump University high marks. So did a lot of other customers. He says that's because the instructors stood over them and implored them to do so.
GUILLO: They would say OK, you know, if you don't rate me a five, I'm not going to come back here, and I've got a wife and kids. And most of the people that were there said, you know, it doesn't cost me anything.
ZARROLI: Trump University officials strenuously deny that attendees were pressured to give high ratings. They insist that instructors weren't allowed near people when they were filling the cards out. As the presidential campaign has dragged on, Guillo has spoken out more and more.
GUILLO: At first it was embarrassing. Then I became very, very angry that the man that scammed me out of all that money had the audacity to run for president. And I'm still angry.
ZARROLI: And Guillo says he's more than willing to testify against Trump University when the class-action suit against it goes to trial in California in November. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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