Medgar Evers professor arrested over fraudulent certificates
Biology professor Mamdouh Abdel-Sayed, who teaches at Medgar Evers College, has been determined guilty on five counts of fraud for hosting unauthorized medical classes on campus and for selling students sham certification indicating completion of the courses.
The released court record discloses that he taught dozens of classes since at least 2013, though it is possible he may have begun to teach them earlier.
Abdel-Sayed sold students fake certificates for prices that ranged between $25 and $1,000 each. Each document resembled the official certificate of completion offered by the college’s Adult and Continuing Education program. Abdel-Sayed’s certificates had a raised seal, the CUNY logo and the college’s name, all of which helped replicate the original design.
Though the certificates look official, the professor purchased supplies and printed them out from his own office computer.
Upon investigating, officials discovered that between February 2014 and June 2017, Abdel-Sayed purchased sufficient office supplies to create and print over 7,000 fake certificates.
Students were able to purchase the certificates upon completion of various medical classes he set up without the authorization from Medgar Evers. Such classes included CPR, electrocardiograms and phlebotomy. Abdel-Sayed told his class that the courses themselves were free of charge but certification had to be bought.
Medgar Evers runs its own medical courses through ACE, though at a much higher price per course and for no credits. Abdel-Sayed claimed that his courses were legitimate and sanctioned by Medgar Evers’ administration. To encourage students to take his classes, he listed the courses he offered on his office door at the college sans costs. Over 30 students at a time participated in and attended some of these classes.
Victoria Cressman, an undercover official who sat in on some of his classes and posed as a student, disclosed that he provided little training in relation to the topics of the classes and there were no grades or textbooks assigned. Students received certificates even if they had not attended the class, provided that they paid the amount Abdel-Sayed set. Either he or his assistant — who was his former student at the college and is now employed there — collected the money. All money was accepted in the form of cash or money order.
Both in class and via email, Abdel-Sayed encouraged students to present the certificates to potential employers, so students who took his classes put down the certification on their résumés and cited Medgar Evers as the institution of completion. Seven students were detailed in the court records as trying to obtain jobs with the fake certifications, with two students reporting to have received jobs in New York City hospitals.
When the institutions requested Abdel-Sayed to verify the certificates and completion, he often faxed them a signed verification form on an official Medgar Evers letterhead. One of the undercover officials also asked him for a recommendation letter indicating course completion, which he provided.
Several students gained employment in multiple hospitals after having included the sham certification as a credential.
In the classes, Abdel-Sayed conducted unsanitary and risky practices. In a phlebotomy class, reports the court record, he passed out needles and “suggested that the students can practice drawing blood from one another.”
In a sonogram class, he asked one volunteer at a time to lie down in an ultrasound machine while the rest of the class examined the volunteer. Afterward, he wiped down the machine with a paper towel before calling up the next volunteer.
In another sonogram class, he gave out two exams and a handout from a folder to students, instructing them to “dark” certain information on the exams “because it is illegal to have.” In class, two female students initiated a discussion with other students regarding a need to “protect Sayed,” according to Cressman. As of press time, the students’ identities have not yet been released.
Abdel-Sayed hosted each class in an empty classroom on days when the college was less populated. The college’s security officers advised him not to use classrooms on days his classes were not scheduled, but he did not listen. During class, he often left the room several times and asked students whether security had entered or given them a hard time while he was away.
In 2015, the director of the ACE program informed administration that the college received a request for verification of a sham certificate and was unable to verify it, despite the certificate’s close resemblance to the ones they distribute. In August 2015, the administration ordered Abdel-Sayed to refrain from continuing the phlebotomy class in the future.
Despite the decree from administrative members, he continued teaching the courses for two more years. He denied any accusations afterward, informing other faculty members that he had stopped with the courses and had not received payments from the students for previous courses.
During the investigation, an undercover official was prompted by Abdel-Sayed and his assistant to “take the fifth” and not to divulge any information to the investigators. The professor also attempted to persuade one of the undercover officials to lie and conceal the fake certificates from investigating law enforcement agents.
No decision has yet been made about Abdel-Sayed’s future at Medgar Evers. As of press time, he still holds a seat as a full-time, tenured biology professor at the college, but he has been put on administrative leave, according to DNAinfo.