Defendants targeted caribbean community
From NYS Attorney General's Office
New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on Friday 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 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,” Schneiderman said.
Gaston, 58, lives in Brooklyn. Akenami, 38, lives in Queens and Allrich, 54, lives in Elmont, N.Y.
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.
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 in Franklin Square, N.Y., owned and operated by Jocelyn Allrich.