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Document and Benefit Fraud

7 California residents plead guilty in nursing fraud scam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Seven California residents have pleaded guilty to forgery charges for using fake transcripts to become licensed registered nurses, following a multiagency probe by the California Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation (DOI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The defendants include four Los Angeles County residents – Philip Tolentino Sarmiento, Laurence Viernes, German Zagada and Jude Dagza Leoncio; two individuals from Kern County – Juan Malaluan Tenorio, Jr. and Glyn Cordova Villegas; and an Orange County man, James Quijano Leoncio. All of the defendants applied for licenses to practice as registered nurses in California using false and forged nursing school transcripts from the Philippines. They now face up to three years in prison.

"The diligent efforts by HSI special agents here in the Bay Area and in the Philippines were instrumental in exposing this potentially dangerous scheme and eliminating a significant threat to public safety," said Tatum King, acting special agent in charge for HSI San Francisco. "Without HSI's global reach and its partnership with Philippine authorities, it would have been difficult to develop the evidence overseas needed to bring the charges in this case. This investigation illustrates yet again how communities benefit from HSI's working relationships with local, state and foreign agencies."

The California Department of Consumer Affairs' Division of Investigation worked closely with HSI, the Internal Revenue Services' Criminal Investigation Division and the California Board of Registered Nursing to investigate and arrest the seven defendants. An eighth individual, suspected ringleader Joanne Keeney, currently resides in the Philippines. There is a warrant out for Keeney's arrest.

"Protecting patient safety is the Board's top priority," said Louise Bailey, executive officer of the Board of Registered Nursing. "A nurse without the proper education could be dangerous to a patient."

"We are happy we were able to crack this ring of forgers and keep them from possibly harming patients," said Division of Investigation Chief Michael Gomez. "We would not have been able to do that without the cooperation from all of those working on the case at the Division of Investigation, HSI and the IRS."

"IRS-Criminal Investigation (CI) is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to protect the American public both domestically and internationally," said José M. Martínez, special agent in charge, Oakland Field Office. "These crimes touched the lives of many unsuspecting citizens and the public should know that we will hold accountable those individuals who put personal financial gain through deceit above the safety and well-being of the public that we serve."

At the request of the Board of Registered Nursing, a Sacramento County Superior Court Judge has ordered Juan Malaluan Tenorio, Jr., Glyn Cordova Villegas, Philip Tolentino Sarmiento, Jude Dagza Leoncio and James Quijano Leoncio not to practice as registered nurses. Additionally, the Board filed and served allegations last month against Juan Malaluan Tenorio Jr., Glyn Cordova Villegas, Philip Tolentino Sarmiento, Jude Dagza Leoncio and James Quijano Leoncio and German Zagada seeking revocation of their nursing licenses.

All seven defendants are expected to be sentenced June 27.