NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The state laid out its case Friday, against the man first exposed by NewsChannel 5 Investigates for selling state cosmetology licenses.
State regulators had filed civil charges against Green Hills salon owner, Lee Phan, seeking to revoke his cosmetology license. He's accused of taking anywhere from $2,000 to $6,000 a piece from Vietnamese immigrants for state licenses that they did not qualify for to work in salons doing hair and nails.
The state found at least 17 people who say they'd bought their fraudulent licenses directly from Phan. A former state employee who had worked for the Cosmetology Board has long been suspected of working with Phan, but she's never been charged.
On Friday, attorneys for the state argued that Phan should be held accountable for what he did.
Shilina Brown, an attorney for the State of Tennessee, said in her opening statement, "He (Phan) took sums of money and obtained fraudulent cosmetology licenses. Even if he was in cahoots with a bad actor in the state, it does not matter. He was involved in a scheme to obtain cosmetology licenses fraudulently and took money from innocent people. "
One by one, those who bought their licenses from Phan testified --sometimes tearfully -- and in most cases, through a translator, about meeting Phan and being promised that they wouldn't have to go to cosmetology school or taking the required tests to get a license.
Brown asked one witness, Thuy Nguyen, "So you paid Mr. Phan a total of $5,000?"
"Yeah," Nguyen replied.
"In exchange for that $5,000, he got you a cosmetology license?" Brown continued.
"Yes," answered Nguyen.
Phan now faces the loss of his own license as well as thousands of dollars in fines while a TBI investigation pursuing possible criminal charges is continuing.
Today's hearing went on for more than 7 hours. It ended though before all of the witnesses, including possibly Phan could testify. The judge did not set a day or time when it will continue. But, we'll let you know when that happens.