The state attorney general has sued a Manhattan-based company, claiming it lured more than 15,000 job-seekers into falsely believing they were guaranteed advertised jobs as security guards after paying for unnecessary training courses.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan that since 2008 the company, 1st Security Preparation and Placement, owned by Allen Haft of River Vale, N.J., "preyed on and defrauded thousands of unemployed, disadvantaged and otherwise vulnerable consumers who were desperately seeking a job."

The lawsuit aims to get job-seekers' money back and to force the company to stop the alleged scam. The company could face penalties of up to $5,000 for each person who was defrauded, Schneiderman's office said.

"My office will not tolerate companies that break the law to take advantage of vulnerable, unemployed consumers," said Schneiderman in a statement. "Posting phony job listings during an economic crisis is a particularly cynical effort to prey on the hopes of struggling workers and families."

Haft could not be reached for comment.

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The company advertised widely in the metropolitan area media, including the New York Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, amNewYork and craigslist, stating that security guard positions were open, said officials.

When people responded to the ads for security guards and were interviewed, they were told they had been selected for a position -- but they had to pay for and complete three company courses, at fees ranging from $429 to $667. Schneiderman's office said only one was mandated by state law. The required one offered by 1st Security was also of inferior quality, he said.

Once the applicants completed the courses, 1st Security administrators gave them the name of a company and a starting date, but the company would not know about the applicants and, often, not even 1st Security, the lawsuit said.