1. The 26 nurses and 1 physical therapist ("Sentosa
27") were all recruited from the Philippines
through the Philippine-based Sentosa Recruitment
Agency is a single proprietorship under the name
of Francris Luyun.
Upon information received, Francis Luyun also
works in New York as the Director of International
Recruitment for the New York-based Prompt Nursing
Employment Agency, doing business as Sentosa Services.
Bent Philipson is
the managing partner and chief operating officer
of the various nursing home facilities that are
the US principals/clients of Sentosa Recruitment
Sentosa Care, LLC is a healthcare management company
owned and/or controlled by Bent Philipson.
The nurses were sponsored as immigrant workers
and arrived in the US in 2004, 2005 and early
2006. The lone physical therapist was sponsored
as a nonimmigrant H-1B worker.
3. RN expectations
as per contract :
The nurses and PT were promised that they would
be hired by and would work directly for the nursing
home facility that sponsored each of them. Each
of the nurses/PT signed individual employment
contracts with the particular nursing home facility
that sponsored them.
The nurses were promised that they could immediately
start working as registered nurses upon their
arrival in New York as their limited permit applications
had already been processed.
Among the nursing
home facilities that sponsored the nurses and
PT were Avalon Gardens, Woodmere Nursing &
Rehab Center, Brookhaven Nursing & Rehab Center,
Garden Care Center, New Surfside Nursing &
Rehab Center, Split Rock Nursing & Rehab Center,
Bayview Nursing & Rehab Center, Franklin Nursing
& Rehab Center, Golden Gate Nursing &
Rehab Center, and Townhouse Nursing & Rehab
4. What they
Upon their arrival in New York, most of the nurses
were surprised to find themselves working at nursing
home facilities different from the ones that sponsored
them. Worse, all of them discovered that they
were made agency employees of Prompt Nursing Employment
Agency, doing business as Sentosa Services.
Services was not a party to any of the employment
contracts signed by any of the nurses/PT.
Prompt/Sentosa Services paid the salaries of the
nurses/PT and provided most of the nurses with
health insurance coverage. The worksite assignments
were made by Prompt/Sentosa Services, which likewise
regularly issued work memoranda to the nurses.
The nurses/PT believed that they were employed
by Prompt/Sentosa Services. Even their nurse supervisors
told them they were agency nurses. Some were even
issued ID cards clearly showing them as agency
Most of the nurses
discovered upon their arrival that their limited
permit applications had not even been submitted
yet or had not been processed.
Because of the lack of a license/permit, which
was not their fault, the nurses could not immediately
start working. They were not immediately given
work upon their arrival, contrary to what was
Some nurses had
to agree to work as clerks to support themselves.
Prompt/Sentosa Services paid them between $12
and $14 per hour, until about two months later
when their limited permits finally arrived.
The paid working
hours in a 40-hour work week were unilaterally
reduced from 37.5 hours to 35 hours. Some nurses
were not paid for actual hours worked; some were
underpaid their hourly rates; and some were not
paid night shift differentials and holiday pay.
The nurses assigned at facilities located in
Queens and in the Bronx were clearly not paid
at least the DOL prevailing wage rates.
What they did:
nurses questioned the arrangement whereby they
were not working directly for their petitioning
employers. Luyun told them that the arrangement
was acceptable as all the nursing home facilities
were owned/controlled anyway by Philipson.
nurses complained that they were not reimbursed
for the licensure & certification expenses,
and even the plane fare from Manila to New York
which Sentosa Recruitment Agency promised to be
reimbursed to them as soon as they arrived in
New York. A few nurses were not given the promised
two months of free housing accommodations.
actual green cards of some nurses and their family
members were initially withheld by Philipson and
Luyun. It was only when the nurses told Philipson
and Luyun that they had inquired from the USCIS
and that the USCIS told them that the green cards
had already been sent to the Sentosa office that
the green cards were eventually given to the nurses.
nurses likewise complained about the lack of proper
and complete orientation or training and the disproportionate
nurse-patient ratio that they felt would compromise
the patient's care and safety.
nurses made known all their concerns and issues,
either verbally by phone or formally by letters
or e-mail messages, and met with their supervisors
and Philipson and Luyun. However, their concerns
were ignored and not satisfactorily addressed.
nurse called the attention of the New York State
Nurses Association about her work conditions.
Two nurses complained to the Philippine Labor
Attache's Office in Washington DC and also to
the Consulate General in New York, which referred
them for legal advice and consultation with lawyer
Felix Vinluan. It turned out that there were many
nurses similarly-situated as those who complained
to the Consulate.
submitting their resignation letters, the nurses
properly endorsed the care and custody of their
patients to the incoming charge nurse.
Contrary to earlier newspaper reports,
the nurses did not walk out of their shifts and
did not abandon their patients.
nurses also knew that Philipson and Sentosa could
easily find their replacements as there were several
Filipino immigrant nurses still waiting for assignments
at the Sentosa staff houses in Surfside and in
Woodmere, NY when they resigned. They knew that
the facilities could easily secure nurse-replacements
from Prompt/Sentosa Services and other staffing
companies they were getting temporary staffing
6. Their legal battle:
After having been interviewed by the Vinluan Law
Office, the nurses were advised that they have
ground to file discrimination charges against
the nursing home facilities that sponsored them
but did not provide them with direct-hire employment.
advised them of their rights as injured parties
to breached employment agreements, as well as
their rights as immigrant workers. Vinluan advised
the nurses that the Sentosa group of companies
engaged in fraud and misrepresentation in the
immigration process. Instead of being directly
hired by their petitioning employers, as per the
immigration process and in consonance with their
respective employment agreements, the nurses were
made by Philipson and Luyun as agency employees
of Prompt/Sentosa Services.
April 6, 2006, Vinluan lodged the nurses'
discrimination charges against Philipson and his
group of companies before the Office of Special
Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment
Practices under the Department of Justice in Washington
Shortly thereafter, the nurses submitted their
resignation letters to Sentosa, Philipson and
the nursing home facilities they were made to
retaliated against the nurses by filing a civil
case (breach of contract) against them, and even
impleaded Atty. Vinluan as party defendant for
alleged tortious interference of contracts.
4, 2006: The nurses, through counsel, also
filed administrative cases against the Philippine-based
Sentosa Recruitment Agency, for violations of
Philippine recruitment rules and regulations before
the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration
24, 2006: POEA (in the Philippines) administrator
signed a preventive suspension order against Sentosa
8, 2006: The suspension order was surprisingly
lifted less than two weeks later as New York Senator
Schumer interceded in behalf of Sentosa by writing
POEA Administrator Baldoz, Labor Secretary Sto.
Tomas, and New York Consul General Rebong. Upon
information received, the nurses believe that
Philipson is a big political contributor of Senator
Schumer. Then Presidential Chief of Staff Mike
Defensor was also reported to have called up Administrator
Baldoz and Con-Gen Rebong a day before Baldoz
signed the order lifting the preventive suspension
5, 2006: The Supreme Court Justice hearing
the breach of contract case denied Sentosa's application
for preliminary injunction as the plaintiffs (Sentosa)
failed to establish "their likelihood of
prevailing on the merits of the breach of contract
claim". The civil case is ongoing, as depositions
are presently being undertaken.
Further, Philipson, his web of companies and their
politically-connected lawyers filed administrative
cases against the nurses before the New York State
Education Department's Office of Professional
Discipline (NYSED's OPD). They alleged that the
nurses abandoned their patients when they resigned.
11, 2006: The POEA denied the nurses' motion
to reissue the preventive suspension order as
no other cases of similar nature had allegedly
been filed against Sentosa Recruitment Agency.
13, 2006: After a couple of administrative
hearings, the NYSED's Office of Professional Discipline
closed the administrative complaints against the
nurses. Atty. Vinluan received an e-mail message
by the Director of Investigations of NYSED's OPD
informing him that the administrative cases were
closed, and that there was no finding of patient
abandonment and that there was no good moral character
issue that would prohibit the nurse-permittees
from securing their limited permits or nursing
5, 2007: The Supreme Court Justice bearing
the civil cases, on a motion to reargue, affirmed
his July 5, 2006 Order, and denied Sentosa's
application for preliminary injunction on
the ground that "there was no showing by
plaintiffs of a clear likelihood of success on
the merits vis-à-vis their claim against
22, 2007: Ten nurses (Elmer Jacinto, Juliet
Anilao, Harriet Avila, Mark Dela Cruz, Claudine
Gamiao, Jennifer Lampa, Rizza Maulion, James Millena,
Ma Theresa Ramos, and Ranier Sichon), who used
to work at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Healthcare
Center in Smithtown, NY, were indicted for conspiracy
and endangering the welfare of children and disabled
persons. The nurses believe that Philipson and
his lawyers used again their political connections
to make the District Attorney's Office in Suffolk
County file the criminal charges against the ten
nurses. The nurses' lawyer (Vinluan) was also
indicted for allegedly conspiring with the nurses.
22, 2007: The ten nurses and Vinluan, through
their counsels, filed their motions to dismiss
31, 2007: The US Department of Justice's Office
of Special Counsel dismissed the nurses' discrimination
charges. This dismissal was however moot and academic
because as early as May 14 and 15, 2007, the nurses
had already filed their complaints before the
Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer
(OCAHO). The OCAHO Judge has taken jurisdiction
over the discrimination complaints. At present,
the parties are at the discovery stage before
4, 2007: The nurses' complaints against Sentosa
Recruitment Agency were dismissed by the POEA
Administrator on the ground that there were allegedly
no regulation on overseas employment that was
violated by the respondents. The POEA made a finding
of fact that there was allegedly a Recruitment
Agreement between Sentosa Recruitment Agency and
Sentosa Care LLC. The nurses timely filed an appeal
to the Secretary of Labor, arguing that the records
bear no such agreement between Sentosa Recruitment
Agency and Sentosa Care LLC, and that in fact,
POEA's records clearly prove that the nurses individually
entered into employment agreements with a particular
nursing home facility, and not with Sentosa Care
LLC. Sentosa Care LLC is not an accredited principal
of Sentosa Recruitment Agency.
28, 2007: The Supreme Court Justice hearing the
criminal cases denied the 10 nurses and Vinluan's
motions to dismiss the indictments.
29, 2007: The Justice in the criminal cases
reset the hearing to December 17, when he would
inquire if the 10 nurses understood that they
had the right to have individual counsels, and
if they had decided to continue being represented
by just one counsel (Atty. James Drucker). Trial
is tentatively scheduled to begin on January 28,
15, 2007. A third batch of complaints was
filed before the POEA against Sentosa Recruitment
Agency. The nurse-complainants request the POEA
Administrator to suspend Sentosa Recruitment Agency's
license. Their request, as well as the request
of the second batch of complainants (filed on
November 24, 2006) for the issuance of the preventive
suspension order remain not acted upon by the
POEA. The second and third batches of complainants
remind the POEA of its earlier September 11, 2006
Order, that here they are, making the same complaints
against Sentosa Recruitment Agency.
27, 2007. The Philippine Senate's Committee
on Labor and Employment began its investigation,
in aid of legislation, into the recruitment activities
of Sentosa Recruitment Agency. SRA's Luyun, POEA's
Baldoz and Mike Defensor did not show up.
27, 2007: The Justice for Sentosa 27+ Campaign
enjoins the people to request the Governor of
New York to appoint an independent Special Prosecutor
to handle the criminal cases so that the Avalon
11 (10 nurses and Vinluan) will have a fair and
objective trial. This call is premised on
the defendants' belief that their indictments
came about because Sentosa's owners and lawyers
used their political clout with the Suffolk County
District Attorney. As reported in Newsday's investigative
report, Sentosa's owners and lawyers sought a
private audience with the Suffolk County District
Attorney and requested him to investigate the
nurses. The District Attorney had previously received
political campaign contributions from Sentosa's
lawyers. Sentosa's owners are big political contributors
to fund-raising activities chaired by their influential
5, 2007: The Philippine House of Representatives'
Committee on Labor and Employment began its own
investigation in aid of legislation into the recruitment
activities of Sentosa Recruitment Agency. SRA's
Luyun, POEA's Baldoz and Mike Defensor failed
17, 2007: The Avalon 10 nurses testified in
open court that they understood their right to
have their own separate defense counsel and that
there could be potential conflicts of interest
should they have common or joint legal representation.
They waived their right to secure separate counsels,
and decided to have James Drucker continue as
their joint defense counsel.