MONROVIA – George S. W. Patten, Sr., the former Ambassador of Liberia to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, is among 19 others who have written Judge Rodney Smith of the Southern District Court of Florida, appealing for leniency in the sentencing of Mr. Stanton Witherspoon, a prominent Liberian-American who has pleaded guilty to wire fraud from which he benefited about US$3.5 million.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
According to the United States Department of Justice, Witherspoon, a resident of Burlington County, New Jersey pled guilty on August 24, 2023, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud (Case No. 23-60005-Cr-Smith). Witherspoon is scheduled to be sentenced on November 2, 2023.
He is among 20 other defendants who have pled guilty or convicted for their participation in a wire fraud scheme, known as Operation Nightingale, that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses.
According to public records, residents of Florida, along with individuals from other states, were charged for their involvement in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs).
The bogus diplomas and transcripts qualified purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPN/VNs. The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Florida (Fla.), Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County. These schools are now closed. Nursing applicants used the fraudulent diplomas to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and nursing jobs with unwitting health care providers throughout the country.
In his letter, Ambassador Patten, who resides in Fargo, North Dakota, explains his longstanding association with Mr. Stanton Witherspoon, dating back to 1990 when he first encountered him in New Kru Town, Liberia. Witherspoon, at the time, was involved in community engagements and sanitation services, and Ambassador Patten was impressed by his dedication, respectfulness, and diligence.
According to Patten, Witherspoon also played an active role in the Upper Room Ministry, a local community church, which carried out outreach and community preaching during Liberia’s civil crisis. He led one of the smaller groups within the ministry, showing deep concern for the well-being of community members. His honesty and dedication earned him admiration within the community.
Ambassador Patten highlights that Stanton Witherspoon continued his commitment to humanitarian assistance over the years. With the establishment of the Spoon Foundation, Witherspoon extended help to thousands of Liberians in need, providing essential support such as food, tuition, medical assistance, and more. The Foundation also played a crucial role in assisting Liberians during the COVID-19 pandemic. These acts of kindness and concern solidified Witherspoon’s reputation as a benevolent figure among Liberians, both in Liberia and among the Liberian diaspora in the United States.
Ambassador Patten goes on to describe Mr. Witherspoon as a friendly, approachable, kind-hearted, and God-fearing individual who is deeply committed to his family. The letter concludes with an earnest plea for Judge Rodney Smith to consider leniency in the sentencing of Stanton Witherspoon, emphasizing his overall good character and the hope that he can rehabilitate and contribute positively to society.
Others who have written similar letter of character to the Judge are Aaliyah Witherspoon, his daughter, Allakenmenin Mulbah, Ansu O. Daulu, Augustine Varsumanah Koenig, Danor Mulbah Deborah Gormah Greenfield, Derr Mulbah, Fafinee Dempster, Francien Chenoweth Richardson, PsyD., James Samuel Flomo, Jerome J. Verdier, Sr. (Cllr), Jesse V. Farmah, Johnetta L. Kolison, Lawor G. Witherspoon, Marcell W. Jamin James, Pastor Adamu James, Reverend Raymond H. Kolison and Teetee C. Karneh.