A network of fake nursing schools defrauded mostly Caribbean immigrants out of thousands of dollars and rewarded them with bogus certifications, New York's attorney general said Thursday.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said the five schools in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island ripped off students for a total of $6 million. Prosecutors say some of the schools even coordinated with a nursing program in Jamaica to provide fraudulent documents.
"These conspirators intentionally targeted people in pursuit of new opportunities, lining their pockets with others' hard-earned money," Schneiderman said in a statement.
Eleven people who owned or operated the schools were indicted on charges including grand larceny and scheming to defraud. Eight people linked to the schools were arrested Thursday in early morning raids. Three others were still being sought.
According to an indictment unsealed in Brooklyn state Supreme Court, the defendants falsely claimed that students who completed the programs would be eligible to take the New York State Nursing Board Exam to become registered or licensed practical nurses.
The schools were not authorized to operate in New York by the state Department of Education.
Prosecutors say students paid $7,000 to $20,000 to attend programs at the fake nursing schools, spending up to two years to obtain fraudulent documents.
The attorney general's office conducted an undercover operation with the state Department of Education to investigate the schools, which were located in Brooklyn, Queens, Floral Park and Franklin Square.
One of the schools, Envision Review Center in Brooklyn, was sued last year by nearly two dozen students alleging they were ripped off by the school after going through the program and receiving fake transcripts.
"The students, who were all working-class people, a lot of them immigrants, saved up every penny they had in the world and spent their money on the school," said Jamie Andrew Schreck, an attorney for the students.
He said many had been devastated financially by what he called "outright fraud."
A woman who operated the center, Carline D'Haiti, 55, of Brooklyn, was among the 11 people named in the indictment.
An attorney for D'Haiti and Envision, Alan Massena, declined to comment.
The attorney general's office says four of the schools have been shut down and authorities are seeking to close the fifth.