Defendants Targeted Caribbean Communities in NYC and LI with False Promises of a Brighter Future as Licensed Practical Nurses and Registered Nurses.
New York, NY - March 21, 2014 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the jail sentences of Salvatrice Gaston, Robinson Akenami and Joceyln “JoJo” Allrich for their role in a massive scheme to defraud prospective nursing students. The defendants were each sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison by Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Joel Goldberg today, after a jury found them guilty on all counts last month, including grand larceny charges. The jury found that, over a period of about five years, the defendants and their co-conspirators operated a network of fake nursing schools in Kings and Nassau counties and engaged in an elaborate scheme to defraud their victims, including by advertising the fake programs in media outlets that cater to New York’s Caribbean communities.
More than 100 students collectively paid more than $1 million between April 2006 and February 2011 to enroll in the programs that the defendants claimed would qualify them for careers in nursing. However, the certifications and transcripts the schools provided were fraudulent.
“These defendants were convicted of orchestrating a fraudulent get-rich-quick scheme and targeting people who hoped to pursue a brighter future for themselves and their families. They lined their own pockets with their victims’ hard-earned money, and now they are going to prison,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Their convictions and sentences send a clear message to those looking to profit by conning New Yorkers: You will not get away with it.”
State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr. said, “The Education Department and the Board of Regents are responsible for ensuring that educational programs actually provide students with the skills they’ll need to secure meaningful employment and for protecting students’ financial interests while attending these programs. We are grateful that the Attorney General moved swiftly to prosecute these crimes based on our initial investigation, and we are pleased to see that those convicted will receive the punishment they deserve.”
Gaston, 58, lives in Brooklyn. Akenami, 38, lives in Queens. Allrich, 54, lives in Elmont, NY.
Testimony at the five-week trial revealed that the three schools run by the defendants were not registered with the New York State Department of Education, despite having been advertised as institutions of higher education offering programs leading to certificates for Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and Registered Nurse (RN). Some of these schools also fraudulently offered Associate’s Degrees, Bachelor’s Degrees, and Master’s Degrees.
Evidence presented in the Attorney General’s case revealed that these defendants specifically targeted the Caribbean communities in New York City and Long Island by advertising in Caribbean-centered newspapers and magazines and Caribbean-centered radio programs. One defendant, Jocelyn Allrich, even hosted a Caribbean-centered television program, the "JoJo Allrich Showcase," which advertised her fake nursing school. Many of the students who were defrauded were immigrants from the Caribbean.
The three defendants were convicted in February of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree (a Class E felony) and multiple counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (a Class D felony), among other charges. The trial included the testimony of more than 30 witnesses – 25 of them victims of the scam – and more than 150 documents admitted as evidence.
The fake schools were Envision Review Center, in Brooklyn, which was owned and operated by Salvatrice Gaston and Carline D'Haiti; Helping Angels Foundation of America (HAFA), in Brooklyn, and in Floral Park, N.Y., which was owned and operated by Robinson Akenami; and Hope-VTEC a/k/a J. Allrich Productions, Inc., in Franklin Square, N.Y., owned and operated by Jocelyn Allrich.
This case was the result of a joint investigation by the Attorney General and the New York State Department of Education. The Attorney General thanks the New York State Department of Education for its valuable assistance in this case.
The Attorney General’s investigation was handled by Supervising Investigators Luis Carter and John Serrapica, and Investigators Karon Richardson, Elsa Rojas and Herbert Antomez. The Deputy Chief of Investigations is John McManus, and the Chief is Dominick Zarrella.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorneys General Hugh McLean and Milton Yu of the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau, with the assistance of Legal Analysts Mikael Awake and Christopher Michel. The Bureau is led by Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton and Bureau Chief Gary Fishman. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Criminal Justice is Kelly Donovan.