Hairy deal: Albuquerque beauty school caught faking student transcripts

*Correction: When this story first aired and was published on our website, we showed the wrong picture of Cheryl Ortiz. We corrected the mistake and apologize for the error.

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Edwin Abeyta and his business partner, Estevan Apodaca, are under a lot of scrutiny. Together they run the Elan Academy, an accredited beauty school in Albuquerque.

A KRQE News 13 investigation found that Elan Academy is at the heart of a licensing scandal involving fabricated documents.

“The documents that you have shown me that I’ve looked at certainly are highly suspect as to their legitimacy,” New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent, Mike Unthank said.

Unthank says there is a high probability that individuals have received state licenses based on fabricated documents.

“I am not happy with what I am seeing at all,” Unthank said. “It looks like there has been some abuse and we want to get to the bottom of that.”

Elan graduate Ashley Jordan’s New Mexico cosmetologist license was issued two years ago. However, nobody with the New Mexico Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists noticed Jordan completed her yearlong education in less than a month.

According to Elan documents, Jordan earned 1,600 credit hours in 28 days.

Susan Trujillo also got a cosmetology license after graduating from Elan Academy. She completed one year of training in 27 days.

Kathy Ortiz, the deputy director for boards and commissions, said it is not possible to complete 1,600 hours in one month.

KRQE News 13’s investigation found Elan Academy doctored educational credentials for at least 16 students.

When asked if the transcripts appeared to be fabricated Ortiz said, “yes.”

Cosmetology is a profession requiring training, a proficiency test and a license.

Beauty school training includes courses in hair styling, manicuring, use of chemicals and disease prevention. In order to be licensed, cosmetology students must complete 1,600 credit hours at an accredited school.

The cost of the education is not cheap. Private beauty schools charge about $20,000 for the yearlong training.

Breakdown: Credit Hours, Cost (story continues below)

Subject Hours Required
Theory 75
Sterilization, sanitation, bacteriology 75
Shampoo, Rinses, Scalp treatment 75
Chemical Rearranging, Perms and Relaxers 200
Hairstyling 150
Hair Coloring, Bleaching 125
Hair Cutting 200
Facials 175
Manicuring/Pedicuring 175
Salon Business, Retail Sales 50
Misc 300
Total: 1600
Private Cosmetology Schools
Elan Academy $14,000
DeWolff’s College of Hairstyling & Cosemetology $15,000
Olympian Academy School of Cosmetology $18,741
Vogue College of Cosmetology $18,251
The Avenue Academy Cosmetology Institute $18,251

Even though Elan Academy supplied some of its graduates bogus transcripts, state regulators ignored obvious discrepancies and issued licenses anyway.

The state cosmetology board issued so many questionable licenses that it has now ordered a review of all Elan graduates going back four years.

When KRQE News 13 asked Unthank if there is a group of individuals that are improperly licensed he replied, “It would appear so, yes.”

Elan graduate Jerica Narr’s official transcript indicates she earned 1,600 credit hours in 20 days. The state cosmetology board issued her a license anyway.

KRQE News 13’s investigation found that Narr spent a year at the Urban Academy, now called Toni and Guy. When she dropped out leaving more than $3000 in unpaid bills, Toni and Guy refused to give her a transcript.

Narr received a fabricated transcript from Elan . Now, she is no longer licensed by the state.

“The Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists sets professional, training and hygienic standards to ensure customers receive quality services. The Board also investigates complaints from customers and takes appropriate disciplinary actions when acceptable and required standards are violated.”

Source: The Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists

Christopher Tsosie dropped out of an Albuquerque beauty school owing almost $7,000 in unpaid tuition. He ended up at Elan where his transcript was falsified.

Even though Tsosie’s cosmetologist license expired last year, he continues to style hair at an Albuquerque salon.

Andrew Jones, Victoria C DeVaca, Jazalyn Urbano, Carly Sheffer all got licenses based on false Elan transcripts.

In regards to the phony transcripts, Apodaca says it isn’t true. His co-owner, Abeyta, also says that Elan Academy is not fabricating transcripts.

“No, absolutely not…absolutely not,” Abeyta said. “In what way are they not accurate? Who started this, who initiated your little… I’m going to ask you to leave. I don’t want to talk to you.”

After KRQE News 13’s two month investigation, the state cosmetology board is now asking the Bernalillo county D.A. to look into criminal charges. Last week, the board issued an immediate cease and desist order stopping Elan from enrolling any new students pending further action of the board.

Junior & Community College
Associate Degree Programs in Cosmetology
New Mexico Junior College
Associate in Applied Science 69 – 72 Credit Hours
Central New Mexico Community College
Cosmetology, Associate of Applied Science 68 – 69 Credit Hours

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