NEWARK – One of the owners and operators of a Totowa test preparation business made her initial court appearance Monday after being extradited from Latvia for allegedly 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, was indicted on charges of mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. She made her initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson after being transported to the United States on Oct. 26, 2012, and was ordered detained without bail. Suliman remains a fugitive.
According to documents filed in this case:
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.
Kuka allegedly took the test in Milan, Italy in 2008 and used a digital video recording device to obtain the questions. On May 28, 2008, a search was conducted at Optima University and live test questions were found. These live test questions were allegedly used by Suliman and Kuka on practice examinations provided to Optima University students.
The six-count indictment was returned in July of 2011. Before charges could be filed against Kuka, she fled to Latvia. In September 2011, U.S. authorities requested Kuka’s extradition pursuant to the extardation 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.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, with the investigation that led to the indictment. 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.
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