The Illinois State Police have decertified a pair of instructors in St. Clair County, IL after an investigation initiated in January found that they were spending as little as two hours of class time teaching Illinois 16-hour concealed carry class.  The two found themselves on the ISP’s radar after students contacted the ISP and reported substandard courses.

According to KTRS, the pair, operating out of Sparky’s Armory in Mascoutah, IL fraudulently certified just shy of one hundred people who have since had their applications denied pending retraining.

Under a deal with authorities, the pair will reimburse all students 100% of their tuition costs and they have agreed to never teach Illinois CCW classes again.

It’s good to see the Illinois State Police following up on instructor complaints.  Sadly, they didn’t nab these two weeks before now.

This is exactly what Guns Save Life has advocated since late last year.

“Corner cutting trainers? Ask them to do it right.” is a story we wrote and posted in December 2013, urging students who take a class from instructors who do not meet the ISP-mandated minimums to ask the instructors to do it right or report them to ISP.

It seems the “asking them to play nice” didn’t work, so now Sparky’s will be spitting out almost 100 checks to former students.

Here’s an ad of theirs from Facebook:

CCW Class Starting November 2, 2013. Instructors: Daniel Wittenstrom Ryan Warner Price: 16 hour $150 12 hour $125 8 hour $75. Payment: Cash Check

It could have been worse for the two.  There is legislation pending to criminalize this behavior, complete with mandatory jail time.

House Representative Ed Sullivan, Jr. (R) has introduced House Bill 4290.

In a nutshell, it’s more or less a single-paragraph in length (why couldn’t more bills be like this one?) and says if you fraudulently certify someone has completed firearms training as required by Illinois law, you shall be convicted of a Class A misdemeanor and it’s non-probational.  In other words, commit instructor fraud and you’re going to spend time in jail – up to 364 days, in fact.

You’ll also never again be an Illinois State Police-approved instructor.  Ever.

Representative Sullivan told GSL that the bill was a pretty close to a sure thing to pass both chambers and be signed into law later this spring or summer.  Brandon Phelps, the downstate Democrat who introduced Michael Madigan’s authored Firearms Concealed Carry Act last year, was added to as a co-sponsor.

Guns Save Life supports this bill as lazy, inept or crooked instructors offering non-compliant training for personal financial gain should not be covered-up, but instead dismissed, prosecuted and shunned.  We think a guarantee of jail time *might* the incentive enough for some of these crooked instructors to shape up and do it right or give up training.

The Illinois State Rifle Association also supports the bill (last time we checked) and the NRA-ILA’s Todd Vandermyde is also supporting the proposal to jail unscrupulous instructors.

Not everyone agrees., the Illinois internet forum gun rights organization that announced the creation of an Instructor Oversight Commission, has come out dead-set against this bill, with that group’s president Tim Bowyer explaining that they are concerned out how it could be applied.

While IllinoisCarry disagrees with Guns Save Life, ISRA and the NRA-ILA on how to deal with bad trainers, we all agree there is no place for them under the new law.


22 thoughts on “Illinois State Police decertifies corner-cutting instructors from Sparky’s Armory”
  1. I’m glad these instructors got stung. Keep it coming – sting some more. We all know there are more out there.

    However, I’m with IllinoisCarry on opposing the new law. The ISP had no problem investigating these guys, and then shutting them down forever and making them refund student’s money. They can keep doing this to go after the egregious offenders out there. They can keep making examples out of folks. John does great work spreading the word about “caveat emptor” when it comes to training, and the media paying attention to this helps out even more. This can get fixed with the current tools out there (the law as written, spreading the word, and good old fashioned free-market capitalism at work.)

    Frankly, I take issue with the mega-class diploma mills out there w/ horrible instructor to student ratios even if they technically meet the legal minimums, so I certainly have no pity for bad instructors that skirt the law and offer straight-up fraudulent “training” like these ass-clowns that got busted.

    But the last thing we need is this new law.

    Why are we jumping on this bandwagon – to show the anti’s how tough we are? Have we thoroughly contemplated the Unintended Consequences of this? Are we forgetting that this is Illinois – and we’re entrusting the powers that be to use the proposed new law in a noble fashion? Really? Let’s think about a few things here:

    1) Most of us think that it is in fact obscene that the law requires 16 hours of training to exercise a basic constitutional right. Many states require little to no training for this. “Should” people get as much quality training as they can? Absolutely! “Must” people pay such an expensive poll-tax to exercise the fundamental right of self defense (pricing out a significant portion of our citizens)? In IL they do … but that doesn’t make it right.

    On the other hand, I’d argue that even the best 16 hour course out there is still a basic introduction and that students need to pursue additional training and a whole lot of practice if they want to really increase their odds of surviving an critical encounter. There’s nothing magic about “16 hours” other than that’s what the law says.

    2) The punishment is grossly disproportionate to the crime. NON-PROBATIONAL mandatory jail time of 364 days? Are you serious!? The average banger in Chicago can commit armed robbery and be out in a faction of that time. Rapist walk the streets of Crook county having served less. I’m not excusing fraud and breaking the law, but for Pete’s sake – let’s keep this in perspective.

    3) This sounds nice and mean for the guys passing off 2-3 hour classes. But where do you draw the line? If somebody lets a student bail 15 minutes early over the 16 hour class due to a sick kid / emergency call / etc, but they’ve clearly met and exceeded all objectives – should the instructor do 364 days hard time and lose their job, their house, and experience the hell of incarceration for exercising some discretion? How about 5 minutes early? The law says 16.0 hours guys … easy to point to the extreme cases of a 2 hour, no-shots fired class. What about the other end of the spectrum?

    4) Do you really think there would be no opportunity, in this state w/ corrupt, anti-gun, anti-freedom politicians and bureaucrats, to abuse their power and either shut down or harass “mouthy” instructors (one of my personal favorites runs a blog that throws some bombs now and then … right, John?) or just harass enough folks on a general basis as to make the rest of the good guys and gals instructing figure it’s not worth the risk?

    How hard would it be to have a “plant” in one of your classes simply allege some technical miss on one or more class requirements? You can keep great records, and subpoena students from the class to vouch you did things by the book – but you’re still facing a trail and the risk of losing even if 100% clean. Think they won’t? Remember Jim Ryan’s stings for petty technical violations of gun laws? What about the recent ARFCOM tale down near Maywood where the guy was cuffed and dragged to the station for walking away from a bogus buy wherein the buyer had no FOID? [He did everything right and said ‘no sale’ and tried to walk!]

    Guys, I know hearts are in the right place and it sounds nice to be tough on bad trainers, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. This can be solved with current laws. We don’t need another law with the potential for abuse. This is Illinois. We should learn from history …

    1. You sure are long winded, Mr. J.C., your points can be covered with a hat.
      Those “instructors” that hold sub-standard “classes” are DELIBERATELY flouting the responsibilities of 16 hours or other infractions and taking personal monetary gain for FRAUD! Why do you think that should not be accompanied by at least a year of incarceration? The ISP has “certified” these “instructors”, therefore these “instructors” have committed perjury in their applications to be certified by not conducting their “classes” according to the requirements of the law. In essance, they are allowing inept students to be considered eligable for having loaded firearms at the ready in public places.

      I know, there are states that do not require any instruction or training to be allowed concealed or even open carry, but the law in Illinois is for competant training. Live with it, be unprepared for your own self defense, or move to a state you are more comfortable with everyone carrying, instruction or not.

    2. Let me tell you, you hit the nail on the head. And this is exactly the situation that is in fact going on with the two instructors. I can not state much because this is an ongoing case, that is much deeper than the negative reported. And personally, I will never live in the state of Illinois because of their crazy laws. I live in a state, where it is my right to have a concealed weapon….and I do.

    3. Contact your credit card company. They might be able to issue a charge back for the fraudulent class. Doesn’t hurt to call and explain the situation.

  2. They arent the only instructor that have been decertified. Yesterday i was applying for the concealed carry after taking the class with James Andel, Security College where classes were held at Bass Pro Shop in Bolingbrook. I called State Police today and I was informed he has been decertified. Wow!!! This entire process is frustrating. The sad part is in the interim I am suppose to wait to still carry but what happens to my Constitutional Rights while they are doing paperwork? Am i suppose to not protect myself and my young children. After seeing the list of places where we are not allowed to carry, its sad that people are so ignorant and dont understand that the criminals dont care about the no gun signs!!

    1. I also took that same class and saw I was denied also. I do not intend to just set back and take it. I am going after that fraudulent company. They took our money and gave no service.

    2. For you guys defrauded by James Andel, I am offering a COMPLETE 100% legit FULL 16 hour class. If you can show me a certificate that you took the phony class with them. I will do the entire 16 Hours for $100 that basically covers my rent and range for your class.

      You can look us up on our website

      we are licensed by the state and fully insured you can even look my name up on the ISP website.

      Again this only applies to those duped in Bolingbrook

      please let anyone else who was a victim of fraud by these fools that they are welcome to this offer as well.

    3. I was also duped by the Security Guard College/Bass Pro deal. I called the number of Jim who was the trainer and no answer and cannot leave a message..surprise.

    4. For you guys defrauded by James Andel, I am offering a COMPLETE 100% legit FULL 16 hour class. If you can show me a certificate that you took the phony class with them. I will do the entire 16 Hours for $100 that basically covers my rent and range for your class.

      You can look us up on our website

      we are licensed by the state and fully insured you can even look my name up on the ISP website.

      Again this only applies to those duped in Bolingbrook

  3. I don’t like these bogus CC instructors but I like the proposed law even less.

    All its going to take is one student making a complaint and the instructor is in hot water. Sort of guilty until proven innocent.

    Jon everyone needs to rethink their support of this bill.

    If this proposed bill becomes law it will only cause trouble!

    The ISP has already stepped in and dealt with some bad instructors. The ISP is still in the learning phase of how to administer CC and now you guys want to pile manure on the process.

    Don’t give the leftist anti-gunners any more ammo, STOP supporting HB4290

    1. thats exactly whats happening here. The media should have all the facts before they start posting crap like this.

  4. First off, this seems like an intentional set up by local area politically motivated a$$clowns with personal agendas. I am with the military and took an 8 hour class through this company that is said to be a “Fraud”. Did any of you or your bloggers/viewers take their class?? Well I along with many retired/active military soldiers did and they did nothing wrong instructing the class. My hours where properly executed. The ISP investigator, funny enough after some searching, is a licensed CCW instructor himself in the regional area. This is a major conflict of interest which deserves legal attention itself and makes one suspect that other local establishments are working behind the scenes with him politically to weed out the smaller competitors so they can “OVERCHARGE” the common citizen or soldier for the same cheap, boring legal powerpoint presentation and monopolize the industry. Why should each instructor be able to charge different prices when no one instructor is greater than the other when all have either a military or law enforcement background. They are all instructed by the ISP are they not? They all are given the same exact acceptable curriculum, so therefore all should be charging the same for 8 hours, not $125, $75 here and $160 over there. Ask yourself this question is “Are those who charge more lining the pockets of others so their establishment is not investigated?”, because the people who took this class and spent our required 8 hours and shot our 70% plus were then denied by the state who instructed and certified this instructor on how to give the class definately question it. In this economy and days of government furlough, charging $20 bucks and hour to read state and gun laws off of a powerpoint presentation is a little ridiculous and I seriously doubt that this company gave a 2 hour class that was supposed to be 16. My 2nd amendment rights are being denied by the state which did not speak to myself nor others that were in my class and took the words from a suspected individual from one of the company’s first classes. Come on people! Testimony from any military individual from my class on a stand should be enough to have our certificates be valid a not force us to line the pockets of the establishment the state is pushing us to. There may be some shady instructor’s in the area and some classes may be suspect but every single one so why don’t your site ask to interview the people who took their class or even classes from a variety of instructors and not defame the names or character of Sparky’s by only accepting what this investigator, who is suspected of having a personal agenda, has put out there from his only “complainaint”. These two are just trying to make a living just like anyone else and I am sure their side of the story will be told in the future and your viewers will be recanting some statements they wrote when jumping on the bandwagon. Aim High and may God keep our fellow brothers and sisters out of harm’s way today and for days to come.

  5. I initially questioned IllinoisCarry’s opposition to HB 4290, and as it was explained to me (or which I inferred), it isn’t the premise of the bill which IC opposes (c’mon, nobody wants corrupt instructors), it is its somewhat loose language, and a lack of a standard by which to measure violations. After reading it myself, I agreed with IC’s stance. It’s just vague enough LE and legislative intent might (will likely?) collide, and given this is Illinois politics to which we’re referring, vauge is a legislative opening we don’t want.

  6. My comment will upset a lot of people…
    Why do so many Illinois gun owners lack an understanding of Liberty?

    This is a bad bill! It will be used against both “GOOD” and “BAD” instructors. All its going to take is one complaint and the ISP is going to be questioning everything an instructor is doing.

    WHY open the door for problems. Why not allow the ISP to decertify bad instructors through the administration process when they are found and leave it at that.

    But Oh no some of you guys want to make them felons and put them in jail!

    Personally I smell a big fat NRA rat behind this nonsense.

    I was told personally by Larry Pratt a little over a month ago that the NRA has been supporting expanded background checks around the country and that I shouldn’t expect to see any help from the NRA in rolling anything back.

  7. The real focus needs to be eliminating the mandated training.

    Either its a right, or its a retractable permission. If it requires me paying another private citizen to exercise it, its not a right anymore.

    I support the prosecution as a criminal offense of anyone who can be shown to have DELIBERATELY failed to execute their responsibilities under the training requirements.

    The way to fix that is not to refuse to hold people responsible for deliberate misconduct but to go to a Indiana system in which people who pay the minor permit fee and pass the background check as upstanding citizens get a carry license, and the trainers are free to court them and offer their OPTIONAL training courses to these license holders.

  8. Jud wrote-
    “makes one suspect that other local establishments are working behind the scenes with him politically to weed out the smaller competitors so they can “OVERCHARGE” the common citizen or soldier for the same cheap, boring legal powerpoint presentation and monopolize the industry.”

    That is why we can only fix this by getting rid of the training mandate. The whole thing is dirty and unseemly, and while anyone should be free to sell their services to make a living, when their services have been conditioned as a roadblock to exercising constitutional rights, that is no longer capitalism.

    People who are good trainers will always have a clientele, but this mandated nonsense is only designed to make money off of what is supposed to be a right.

  9. I also took the class with james andell I am pissed that they cut corners and took my money

    1. We all need go after him and that Security guard college for better training or a full refund. May call the BIBB on them. I am sure the I-team would love yo hear about them also.

  10. darcar, how can we get our refund any idea? i’ve been calling security guard college but ni answer.

  11. I took the class with James Andel in January at Bass Pro and we did the class and range qualification. I don’t know if he cut corners in the other classes but ours was not. Very informative and thorough. I also was denied on my application. I cannot get any answers from ISP when I called. They just said he is teaching cert has been revoked??? They said that they would send a letter to me. What is the purpose of the person that answers the phone there. Stop wasting taxpayers money if the person has no info, answers and cannot handle a concern in one phone call. 3 months later and I get penalized? He was an approved ISP instructor and Bass Pro Shop endorsed him on flyers at their store and website. Why do prior students that completed the hours have to suffer, I understand if they seize and desist and barrred him from teaching any more courses in the future, but do not punish prior classes. Come on State of Illinois get your act together. Is it right that to take my Masters degree away because my university just found out that did not like one of my professors teaching stlye? You can answer that. Every instructor that is approved to teach CCW should have an ISP observer sit in their first class that they teach to critique them and see if there are any problems or concerns. Not after hundreds of people take a class and find out months later that they have a problem of some sort.

  12. I took the class with James Andel. Was denied for “failure to meet all training requirements.” I’m really upset. ISP said a letter went out explaining my options. She couldn’t help at all. Waste of my time and money. This state is terrible. To make things worse, I used the NRA cert to get an AZ permit. Something tells me it was another waste of $60.

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