The bad blood between tech boot camp MyTechBestfriend and many of its former students is anything but finished, according to nearly a dozen people who spoke to TechCrunch.
In November, TechCrunch detailed the fallout between Mary Awodele, the founder of the Texas-based MTBF, and her students. Students accused Awodele of bullying and harassment while alleging that the MTBF program, which cost up to $6,000, consisted of plagiarized courses that could be found online for a more affordable price. At the time, Awodele told TechCrunch she couldn’t comment on those allegations “due to ongoing legal proceedings.”
Since then, those who spoke up against Awodele and the program said they are struggling to obtain refunds and facing continued harassment.
Awodele, meanwhile, posted online in an Instagram story screenshot seen by TechCrunch that she plans to rebrand the company in the new year. She also hired a Texas-based lawyer, Kim Daily, and brought on Curt Bender, a Florida attorney who is consulting for MTBF. Neither Awodele nor Daily directly responded to TechCrunch’s requests for comment, but Bender replied to a set of questions sent to Awodele. Bender said MTBF has no imminent plans to rebrand.
To request refunds, students said they began contacting Stripe, which was, per receipts seen by TechCrunch, one of MTBF’s payment processors. MTBF then posted an Instagram story saying that the new program it hopes to launch would be for those who are an “Affirm, Klarna, or Afterpay kinda person.” MTBF also said it wanted to venture into career services and would vet prospective students to ensure the new program had a more “mature crowd.”
The #MyTechFallout continues
A major point of contention between Awodele and her students remains the fees paid to participate in MTBF’s courses. Awodele told students she would grant refunds to those who wished to drop out after the fallout in late November, even though the course contract students signed said MTBF would not process any refunds. Students told TechCrunch that the refund process has been inconsistent with Awodele’s promises.
A November 18 email forwarded to TechCrunch shows an MTBF employee agreeing to refund Shay, a former student who requested to go by their nickname, within 10 days. After 10 days passed, Shay followed up, but MTBF responded: “Hi. Call your bank, and please do not email us again. Thank you.”
Allegations about the program’s deceit also continued to spread. Some students sent TechCrunch their receipts from MTBF, showing that their transactions were processed as gifts rather than services, which can be a tactic to avoid paying a tax on generated revenue. If these purchases were indeed processed as gifts, it would be a revenue misclassification that impacts the way MTBF is taxed and could land Awodele in serious trouble with the law, including jail time, two financial experts and attorney David Reischer of Reischer & Reischer told TechCrunch.
Bender said that MTBF “was not aware that transactions regarding scholarships were being processed as gifts, and it is correcting and remedying the situation.”
According to correspondence seen by TechCrunch, Awodele also threatened to report multiple students to credit bureaus in instances where she lost bank disputes. Bender, however, said MTBF “never sent anyone to a credit bureau” but “engaged with Fidelity Information Corporation in two instances.”
Victoria, a former student, using a pseudonym for fear of retribution from Awodele, successfully disputed MTBF’s tuition with her bank. Then she received, according to documents seen by TechCrunch, what appears to be a letter from Fidelity Information Corporation, a debt collector. The letter, an attempt to retrieve tuition money on behalf of MTBF, said to mail payments directly to MTBF and listed an address associated with an apartment building in Houston, not FIC, which is based in Los Angeles. (Bender said this is due to FIC’s engagement terms. FIC could not be reached for comment.
Many students have continued reporting MTBF to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the FBI and the IRS, all of which, according to some students, have reached out to students regarding the allegations against MTBF. (The IRS declined to comment, while the FBI and TWC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) Bender said “MTBF is in the process of meeting [TWC] regulatory demands” and is aware that “at least one former student saying the FBI and FTC reached out to them.”
Students who initially spoke out about allegations against MTBF say they continue to face harassment. On December 15, Charlie, a former student, awoke to text messages, one reading that her name was in a pot somewhere in Haiti.
“Make sure you pray for the wickedness that’s in your heart. When a stream of bad luck starts to come your way. Just know it’s us. What’s done is done. So let it be. Ashe,” the text message read, followed by a photo of what appears to be an object used for voodoo.
Bender told TechCrunch that “the founder of MTBF is a Christian and Nigerian and neither practice[s] nor participate[s] in voodoo.” He added that MTBF does, however, employ “hippie-esque practices with students, including lighting candles and manifestation for personal success.
“But never anything against enemies,” he noted.
Charlie, whose last name is being withheld, believes Awodele gave her number out to people for them to harass her. TechCrunch previously reported that Awodele had a group called #MTBFSPECIALFORCES, which she sent out to pester people who spoke up against her or the company. Two hours after TechCrunch reached out to Awodele and her lawyer for comment, Charlie received a message from Bender, who wrote that MTBF “nor its affiliates” were involved with the alleged threats — which was the question TechCrunch posed to them just hours before.
“Please report those threats to law enforcement, and MTBF will assist with any investigations,” Bender wrote in the email seen by TechCrunch. Charlie responded, “There is nothing else to be said other than I’ll see you in court.”
The voodoo incident has scared many people, adding to the fear that is keeping most students enrolled in the program, one current student, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from Awodele, told TechCrunch. Though MTBF is back in session, it’s unclear how many students have dropped out — and how many remain.
“She’s a narcissist with a God complex who believes she’s untouchable and needs to be shut down,” Amber, a former student using a pseudonym for fear of retribution from Awodele, said of the founder. “We won’t stop until she’s unable to do this to anyone else.”