U.S. prosecutors have indicted U.S.-based Liberian radio empire chief and humanitarian Mr. Stanton Witherspoon for allegedly selling false and fraudulent diplomas to students seeking nursing credentials and employment.
Prosecutors alleged that buyers used the false and fraudulent diplomas, transcripts, and other records created by defendants Witherspoon, Alfred Sellu, and Rene Bernadel to obtain licensure as registered nurses in various states including Maryland and Georgia.
The indictment was filed on 12 January 2023 against the three defendants and other unnamed conspirators before the U.S. District Court of Florida.
Mr. Witherspoon is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Spoon Group of Companies which owns an empire of Spoon TV and Radio stations across Monrovia
The broadcast network under the Spoon Group of Companies operates both traditional broadcast houses and the new media, famous for its night-time talk show Spoon Talk of which Mr. Witherspoon is the lead host.
Spoon empire bought up struggling private radio stations which had mushroomed overnight.
Credible sources say Witherspoon reportedly bought Kailondo radio station for over US$900,000 as part of an expansion of his business interests in Liberia.
But that deal, the sources say, is for land and petrol station operation along with a radio station initially owned by Liberian businessman and lawyer, George Kailondo.
The U.S.-based Liberian also bought local broadcaster Fabric FM at an estimated cost between US$150,000 to US$200,000 from Foray Kromah following the death of Vic Freeman.
Witherspoon further offered to buy local broadcaster Hott FM for nearly half a million United States dollars.
But sources say the late Daniel E. Cassell, political leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PLP), captured Hott FM’s owner Mr. Benard Benson (alias DJ Blue) as PLP’s mobilization chairman.
The late Cassell was prepared to pay commercial fees and allow DJ Blue to keep his station.
Fast forward defendant Witherspoon has five radio stations, contrary to public policy. Something which runs contrary to Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in the United States of America that frowns on monopoly deals.
Again, in recent times, Witherspoon was reported to have signed a US$1.2 million deal with President George Manneh Weah’s government for public relations services.
Weah and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) are seeking another six years of rule as his first term concludes gradually.
Witherspoon became a fierce critic of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah last week and his viewers and listeners heard him say if Tweah thought he owned the stations, he should go and shut them down.
Witherspoon’s indictment in the U.S. has left mixed reactions at home on social media, some in his favour while others are applauding the U.S. system for being robust against alleged criminality, regardless of who’s involved.
According to the indictment, Florida’s Nursing Act states that an approved pre-licensure program’s curriculum must consist of at least fifty percent clinical training for a practical nursing education program.
This also covers an associate degree professional nursing program or a professional diploma nursing education program.
But the indictment says Witherspoon and his conspirators created and distributed via interstate wire communications, false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts to buyers.
Those false documents fraudulently presented the buyers as if they had attended Siena College in Florida and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain RN or LPN/VN diplomas, when in fact they had never actually completed the necessary courses or clinicals.
Siena College of Health was managed by Siena Education Center LLC, a Florida limited liability company.
His case brings to memory the arrest and indictment of the late PLP political leader, Dr. Cassell who died on Christmas Day, 25 December 2022 while he still faced charges in the U.S.
Cassell’s bid to contest the Liberian presidency this October was foiled after being arrested on 17 March 2022 in the U.S. for alleged fraud.