Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Beauty School Certificates
It's just one of those things most of us don't even question. When we get a haircut, we assume the stylist is properly licensed. But the owner of one local beauty school says her certificates are being copied and sold. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On The Case.
WSVN -- To work in a beauty salon you need more than just talent. You need an education in cleanliness and chemistry.
Bessie Dennis: "It can cause a lot of damage to a person, whether it's their skin, their hair, their nails, or their feet."
Bessie Dennis operates a school that prepares people for beauty careers.
For nails, the state requires 240 hours of training. For cosmetology, it takes 1200 hours.
But for some, all it takes is the money to buy a certificate, which can then be used to get a license.
Carmel Cafiero: "This certificate says it's from B Natural Beauty School ... certificate of completion. Is that from your school?"
Bessie Dennis: "No, it is not. This is a fraudulent copy that a former employee stole from my files."
Bessie Dennis says she's learned of several bogus certificates and believes there may be many more.
She says the former employee selling them is Eric Dennis, her former husband -- a man with a record of arrests from bad check charges to DUIs.
Laura Romero says Dennis took money from her.
Laura Romero: "I love doing my job. I love everything about it. I know how to do practically, basically everything that has to do with hair."
After owning her own beauty salon in the U.S. Virgin Islands for years, she moved to South Florida to be with an injured son.
Laura says Dennis claimed he had connections at the state level and could quickly handle the paperwork to get her a Florida license.
Laura Romero: "I kept telling him, 'I hope everything we're doing is legal, because I don't want to be doing anything that is not.'"
Lianabel Stephenson: "He's a sweet talker, OK."
Lianabel Stephenson owns the salon where Laura got a job.
Lianabel Stephenson: "She's such a great person -- the attitude, a good disposition. She was really nice already, and she wanted to work."
So, Lianabel wrote two checks that total $400 to Eric Dennis. She says the money was to pay him to handle Laura's paperwork -- money Laura repaid.
But when a state inspector came to her salon, they learned no papers had been filed. The salon was fined, and Laura was out of work.
In a telephone conversation, Eric Dennis denied any wrongdoing. But, after agreeing to meet me here at our Broward Bureau for an interview, he never showed up.
It turns out Dennis got arrested just hours after the missed interview.
He's charged with grand theft in connection with one of the beauty school certificates and Laura's case.
She meanwhile is trying to get her paperwork straight with the state and can't work until she does.
Laura Romero: "I don't have a job. I don't have a job. I mean after 30 years, I can't work!"
What a welcome to South Florida.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL:
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE
Or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org