Test prep company owner who was extradited from latvia admits stealing questions from medical licensing exam
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 17, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – One of the owners and operators of a Totowa, N.J., test preparation business who was extradited last month from Latvia today admitted her role in stealing “live” licensing examination questions from the National Board of Medical Examiners, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Egija Kuka, 38, who owned and operated Optima University with her former husband, co-defendant Eihab Suliman, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler in Newark federal court to Counts One and Three of an Indictment charging her with mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Suliman remains a fugitive.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Optima University was a test preparation business that provided courses designed to prepare students for the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which is created and administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), an independent, not-for-profit organization headquartered in Philadelphia.
The USMLE is used by medical licensing authorities throughout the United States to evaluate physicians seeking an initial license to practice medicine. The test assesses whether international medical school graduates are ready to enter accredited residency or fellowship programs in the United States. Medical school graduates – whether they graduated from a United States medical school or a foreign medical school – generally must complete at least some parts of the USMLE as a prerequisite to enter into residency training or receive a medical license. NBME goes to extensive lengths to keep test questions secure and examinees are advised that the test questions used in the USMLE are copyrighted and not to be distributed or reproduced.
Beginning in December 2007, Suliman and Kuka solicited potential Optima University students by guaranteeing that the students would pass the USMLE, even if the student had previously failed it. Suliman and Kuka also assured potential students that any tuition paid to Optima University would be “risk-free,” and that any student who did not pass the USMLE could retake the Optima course at no additional cost.
On Dec. 2, 2007, Kuka applied via the internet to take the USMLE in Milan, Italy, falsely stating that she had graduated from the University of Oradea, an accredited medical school in Romania, with a doctorate in medicine. On Dec. 18, 2007, Kuka submitted a “Certification of Identification Form” along with a copy of a fabricated diploma from University of Oradea’s medical school to enable her to take the exam and gain access to, steal, and reproduce the live test questions.
Kuka took Steps 1 and 2 of the USMLE on April 7, 2008, and April 14, 2008, in Milan. Video surveillance from those test sessions show Kuka using a small digital video recording device to record the live test questions that were displayed on the computer monitor. On May 28, 2008, Kuka sat again for Step 1 of the USMLE examination.
On May 28, 2008, a search was conducted at Optima University and live test questions were found. These live test questions were used by Suliman and Kuka on practice examinations provided to Optima University students.
The six-count Indictment was returned in July of 2011, however, Kuka had already fled to Latvia. In September 2011, U.S. authorities requested Kuka’s extradition pursuant to the extradition treaty between the United States and Latvia.
Each count of the Indictment is punishable by a maximum prison term of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offenses. Sentencing is scheduled for March 19, 2013.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, with the investigation that led to today’s guilty plea. He also thanked the Office of International Affairs, Criminal Division, at DOJ and Officials in the Republic of Latvia for their assistance in this matter.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah J. Gannett of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Health Care and Government Fraud Unit.
Defense counsel: Peter Carter Esq., Assistant Public Defender’s Office, Newark