Breaking money, people before they enter beauty

MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Reducing stress at work, improving finances and spending more time with family are among the top New Year’s resolutions for 2023.

All are reasons why workers continue to leave their jobs for new opportunities. A career in skin care is especially attractive to nurses burned out by the pandemic, but our I-TEAM found that students are wasting time, money and another career in the new, growing business.

The I-TEAM found that there are only five licensed esthetics schools in Georgia. Four opened during the pandemic, including the Bryan Sexton Esthetics Institute in Martinez.

The school is the only option for people who live here other than driving to the next closest school in Columbia, where some students have graduated after attending classes here for nine months and earning thousands of dollars.

Andrea Williams was a nurse who wanted to transition from seeing patients to seeing clients, so she turned to esthetics school.

Andrea’s story began a year before meeting the I-TEAM in the summer of 2022.

She enrolled as a student at the Bryan Sexton Esthetics Institute in 2021.

The school is located within the Rosebay Medi Spa on Washington Road.

Andrea entered a payment plan for the nine-month program. Almost seven thousand dollars in tuition with deposits and fees, all for a price of just over ten thousand dollars.

“It actually goes into her husband BD Sexton’s cash app,” she explains.

State records show Dwain Sexton, aka Bobby Sexton, and Liz Brian, aka Liz Sexton, own the school

Andrea says she sent more than two thousand dollars directly to a Zelle account listed as Bobby Sexton and another two thousand plus to a CashApp account listed as Dwain and Elizabeth sexton.

Fast forward to the end of the program: March 21, 2022.

“The following Tuesday after I finished, when I came, I was told not to come because I hadn’t finished my classes,” explains Andrea.

The I-TEAM discovered that the Board of Cosmetology requires a thousand hours of coursework signed off by a certified instructor before a student can qualify to take the state exam to become a licensed esthetician.

Board rules and regulations also require instructors to sign off on the hours a student has earned each week.

“She said I owed 81 hours of services or treatments that needed to be done before I could continue, and I also owed school,” Andrea says.

The contract she signed contains this clause:

“The Bryan Sexton Institute of Esthetics will not issue any certified hours or transcripts to any licensing board or other schools unless the financial and contractual obligations for those hours earned have been met.”

Andrea filed four complaints with the Georgia Secretary of State, including this one in which she writes to the owner:

“She did not provide current weekly credit hour sheets signed by student and instructor … nor did she conduct clinical competency checks while she was present.”

Andrea alleges negligent or fraudulent business practices in her second complaint to the state, specifically with the items she saw on the school’s invoice.

“When she sent me the invoice, it had $25,000 in tuition and a $15,000 CSRA award that I have absolutely no knowledge of.”

The Bryan Sexton Georgia Institute of Esthetics website lists several scholarships.

Opportunities, but we found that if you click on the links, you will read that the scholarships are only for students attending accredited schools.

BSEI is licensed by the state, but not accredited. It is the only scholarship I can apply for.

Andrea says that she is not aware that she has applied for any scholarship.

In the complaint to the state, she says she never requested or received notice of the award, but somehow got it anyway. It’s listed right here on her invoice. This does not reduce the cost of tuition, it more than triples it.

The tuition fee on the invoice is $25,900.

The cost of tuition on her contract is $6,806.

Owens sat down with Elizabeth Bryan to learn more about her program.

Liz Owens: “When students said they never applied for any scholarship, they still received notification that they had received it. Are you signing up automatically?”

Bryan: “As long as they are CSRA residents, the locations, then they can receive it.”

Owner Liz Bryan told us donations and student spa services fund a CSRA scholarship.

Owens: “I guess I’m confused because you said the total cost of the program is 12-15, but with the stipend $25,000.”

Bryan: “Right.”

Owens: “Is that just a publicity stunt to say hey.”

Bryan: “No.”

The invoice Andrea provided to the I-TEAM shows she paid nearly $8,000 in tuition.

“They said at school that I have balance. I said well, I don’t deny that I have balance”, says Andrea.

But not as much as they say she should.

“After that I decided to go to another school. I asked for my hours and they handed me their hours, but they were unofficial copies because they were not signed.”

Andrea completed the last 88 hours at another school, and her instructor sent the state approval to take the state exam.

She is scheduled for testing by PSI on June 9, 2022. They are a third party testing company that has a contract with the state of Georgia.

The day before the test – PSI canceled her test appointment.

Andrea was speechless. “They claim they sent the letter to explain why it was canceled and they don’t get involved in student financial disputes.”

Andrea filed a fourth complaint, writing: My account is still disabled. Ms. Sexton would have to call and let them know my account balance was met before she would unblock my account. Where in the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology rules does it say that I can be denied testing because of financial condition?

“I’ve been licensed for 30 years,” says Andrea. “I’ve never had a problem with the board not being able to provide information.”

Andrea is a licensed LPN which means she can perform procedures that only a nurse can do at the Medi Spa Center.

He is also a licensed laser practitioner assistant.

Occasionally, she tells the I-TEAM, Bryan would ask her to do work for hire.

In his third complaint, the owner says:

Managed the Rosebay MediSpa business during BSEI school hours. Mrs. Sexton pulled me out of the 1st and 11th classes to perform IV hydration and vitamin injections as a nurse.

Two months after she left school, someone reported her doing IVs as a laser practitioner—illegal under her laser license—but legal under her LPN license.

Andrea refused to sign the public order. She requested the hearing to prove she is licensed to administer the intravenous injection and to expose the broken system that allows people in the cosmetics business to retaliate against others in Georgia.

“I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have a job. I had no money. I could not. I couldn’t do anything,” says Rachel Jackson. She finished school in March last year.

“I asked Liz about her working hours and she just gave me the run around… I called the PSA and the state board. They didn’t send anything for me.”

Jackson indicated that ITEAM Bryan sent her a Venmo request for an additional $2,460 after Rachel inquired about taking a state test to get her license.

Maybe Liz Bryan didn’t send her hours to the state – not because of debt, but maybe because of… what ITEAM discovered next. Elizabeth Bryan didn’t even become a licensed instructor until six months after Rachel graduated.

“I guess she really couldn’t even sign them,” Rachel adds.

The former student filed a lawsuit against the state and took to social media.

“She is angry. She’s just mad that I started all this.”

ITEAM has obtained an audio recording of the owner talking about her former student to the class of 2021.

Liz Bryan’s voice: “Rachel is causing a lot of interference with the state board…..I don’t know what’s going to happen, but she’ll never get licensed in the state if I can do it… There’s a massage therapist that participated, I’m looking for her job right now.”

Krystina Carinno immediately recognizes exactly these events.

“It’s me. It’s me. I’m a massage therapist. My beauty instructor and esthetician. And spa owner.”

Rachel began her apprenticeship with Krystina Carrino after leaving the Bryan Sexton Institute of Esthetics.

About a month later, the state stamped Krystina’s massage therapy license.

Krystina: “There is still an ongoing investigation against me for unprofessional behavior.”

The state told her that Elizabeth Bryan Sexton had filed suit. Krystina sent this response back to the Secretary of State’s office:

“I had nothing to do with Elizabeth regarding anything to do with the massage. What I’m trying to find out from the cosmetology board is why I had to take an apprentice, Rachel Jackson, who Elizabeth took over $10,000 from at her school. Why does this young lady have to do an extra 2,000 hours to get her esthetics license?”

Almost three-year-old students turned to the administration, the court, the police or private agencies for help.

Krystina explains: “You can’t just say there are no answers. But the board does not take those complaints seriously. They really don’t.”

The state Board of Cosmetology and Barbers told the I-TEAM that it has referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office and “at this time, all board members have been warned by the AG not to discuss anything about this case.”

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with the board of cosmetology and licensing,” says Andrea. “Do they work in different areas than other committees? I don’t know. Maybe they don’t have enough staff. I’m at the point where I forget this aesthetic license. Either way, it’s disheartening.”

A system that allows the ugly side of beauty to break bank accounts and people before they can even get into business.

We reached out to the owners multiple times after we first sat down with Liz Bryan. Not one of them answered.

On the other hand, Andrea heard from Liz Bryan.

Bryan’s lawyer sent her a settlement agreement that says she will be released from work hours if she pays back some of the money, removes all negative social media posts and stays away from the press.

Andrea refused the offer.

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