Two schools have been revealed as “diploma mills,” selling certification of school hours. More than 2,000 licensees are suspected of holding fraudulent licenses.
Fraudulent certification of school hours by two southern schools has caused licensing reciprocity to come under scrutiny in at least five states. Two nail schools in south Florida have been selling fraudulent documentation certifying completion of school hours. The Florida State Department of Professional Business Regulation (DPBR) has issued emergency suspension orders for 1,707 licenses issued by the Florida State Board of Cosmetology to “graduates” of the Artistic Nail Academy between early 1991 and October 1996.
The Florida schools, located in Pembroke Pines and North Miami Beach, came under scrutiny after the Florida DPBR was tipped off by a call from the Kansas State Board. A representative of the Kansas Board had received applications for reciprocity from applicants with Florida addresses, and after tracking the individuals he turned up information that he said “didn’t make sense.”
After the Florida DPBR was notified, its investigators contacted the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, the U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), who all cooperated in an undercover investigation. They found out that the schools were selling hours for about $1500 and that most applicants had purchased at least 600 hours, which would qualify for reciprocity in every state that offered it. They discovered that a typical purchase of a nail specialist license involved a buyer contacting one of the school owners about purchasing a license. In exchange for an agreed-to fee (around $1,500), the owners would complete a DPBR-approved application on behalf of the buyer and certify on the application successful completion of cosmetology training. Because Florida does not require examination for licensing, the State Board accepted the information on the application as fact and issued a license to the applicant.
Several other states have now encountered reciprocity requests from these same applicants who have the false licenses from Florida. State Boards in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Indiana are now reviewing previous applications for reciprocity based on the list of licensees named m the Emergency Suspension Order. Agencies have indicated that the majority of the license-buyers have Asian surnames.