News4 I-Team

Maryland man charged with conspiracy in alleged fake nursing degree scheme

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A Maryland man is facing a federal conspiracy charge in an alleged scheme to sell fake nursing degrees.

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland's office recently announced the conspiracy charge against Ejike Asiegbunam, whom they say made more than $1.6 million in what they called a "scheme to defraud."

According to court documents, Asiegbunam was the owner and operator of a nursing school in Florida and a nursing exam prep school in Maryland. The feds allege that, between 2018 and 2021, Asiegbunam — along with three others — "conspired to provide purchasers with false and fraudulent RN degrees" from the Florida nursing school.

In the filing, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron accuses Asiegbunam of accepting thousands of dollars from students to "complete required prerequisites" to enter that nursing school for them. The U.S. attorney alleges Asiegbunam charged purchasers between $15,000 and $22,000 for the false nursing school documents and as much as $5,000 to complete online prerequisites.

The feds also say he conspired with a woman identified as Johanah Napoleon to sell fake degrees from the Palm Beach School of Nursing in Florida to people in Maryland and New York. Reached by News4, her attorney confirmed Napoleon previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy related to a fake nursing degree case in Florida.

The court documents don't name the test prep business or the nursing school the feds allege Asiegbunam operated, but in 2021, the News4 I-Team reported concerns from local students who took online classes from Asiegbunam's Jay College of Health Sciences.

Students interviewed at the time said they were out thousands of dollars when the school abruptly shut down that year.

The I-Team’s monthslong investigation found that while Jay College was approved by Florida officials to teach in-person classes there and had temporary emergency approval to offer programs online due to the pandemic, state education officials said it has not been approved to offer distance learning to students across the country.

At the time, Maryland higher education officials told the I-Team Jay College had not received the required approval to offer nursing programs to Maryland students online or in-person, either.

What’s more, the I-Team found local graduates wouldn’t be able to sit for Maryland’s nurse-licensing exams, because even though some states’ nursing boards recognize degrees from Jay College, the Maryland Board of Nursing did not include the school among its approved in-state or out-of-state programs.

“The reason why I chose this school was because it was online,” said a Montgomery County, Maryland, woman.

She said she was enrolled in its practical nursing program for just a couple months when it was suddenly canceled in 2021. She asked News4 not to use her name out of concern for reprisal.

“It was just very devastating for me that all of that happened — the way it happened,” she said.

Neither Asiegbunam nor his school returned repeated requests for comment at the time of that report. On Wednesday, his defense attorney declined comment on the federal conspiracy case.

In its filing, the U.S. attorney's office said it plans to seek forfeiture of at least $1.6 million from Asiegbunam if he is convicted.

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