A biology lecturer at Medgar Evers College, a part of the City University of New York, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of federal wire fraud for teaching unauthorized health care classes and selling students bogus course-completion certificates.
Mamdouh Abdel-Sayed, a full-time tenured lecturer, admitted in Federal District Court in Manhattan that he had “abused his position on the CUNY faculty to enrich himself,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office prosecuted the case, alongside the New York State inspector general and the federal Education Department’s Office of the Inspector General.
From at least 2013 to 2017, Mr. Abdel-Sayed claimed to teach courses on topics such as electrocardiograms, phlebotomy and sonography at the college, located in Brooklyn. He typically convened the classes on evenings or weekends, when the college was less busy. He then provided students with fake certificates of completion for the courses. He charged fees of up to $1,000 per certificate and he kept the money for himself.
He also encouraged students to use the certificates when applying for jobs — sometimes successfully — in the health care field, including at hospitals. Investigators are not aware, however, of any complaints that have been lodged against any of the students who used the fake certificates to land jobs.
Mr. Abdel-Sayed, 68, of Kearny, N.J., was charged in September. As part of his guilty plea, he forfeited $20,000 in money he had garnered from the scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7, and could face 21 to 27 months in jail, and fines of up to $95,000, under federal sentencing guidelines.
In a statement, a lawyer for Mr. Abdel-Sayed, Ryan G. Blanch, said that the professor “continued a training program that Medgar Evers College could no longer fund.”
“Although he did not obtain the proper certification from CUNY,” he continued, “his intention was to help students obtain the education necessary to get a job in the medical field.”
But Rudolph F. Crew, the president of Medgar Evers, said in a statement that the college was working to terminate Mr. Abdel-Sayed’s employment. “Medgar Evers College has zero tolerance for anyone attempting to defraud our students, least of all a member of our community,” he said. “This individual’s actions are in no way a reflection of the values of our faculty, staff and students.”
Medgar Evers officials first learned of Mr. Abdel-Sayed’s classes in 2015, and ordered him to stop. But he did not stop. So last year, as part of a continuing probe by Catherine Leahy Scott, the state inspector general, into CUNY’s oversight and management practices, two undercover investigators, posing as students, attended his classes and bought his certificates.
When Mr. Abdel-Sayed learned last summer that he was under investigation, he tried to cover up his crimes by telling a student to “take the Fifth” if questioned by authorities. The student turned out to be an undercover investigator.