Tuesday, November 6, 2007


News Release
October 31, 2007

Reference: Rico Foz, Executive Vice President, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, email: nafconusa @ yahoo.com

New York-- The 10 former nurses with Avalon Gardens Nursing Home in Long Island who resigned from their positions as contract nurses with the SentosaCare LLC and their lawyer Felix Vinluan maintained a firmness of morale and spirit as they faced the Judge Robert Doyle together in the Suffolk Criminal Courthouse Monday morning, despite new tactics to stall the date of their criminal hearing to December 17th.

The hearing followed a Sunday townhall meeting in Queens in support of the nurses and lawyer organized by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON.

Also known as the Avalon 11, the nurses and attorney face criminal charges of patient endangerment filed by SentosaCare LLC and its owner and CEO Bent Philipson. The 10 nurses have written documentation proving they did not walkout on their patients mid-shift, but completed their shifts before submitting their resignation letters to the Sentosa-owned Avalon Gardens in Long Island.

The Avalon 11 are also members of the Sentosa 27++, a group of Filipino nurses who are waging a justice campaign against Sentosa and Philipson for workplace abuse, withheld wages, and large-scale breach of contracts that constitute massive illegal recruitment.

The Avalon 11 were joined by their families, friends, and members of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), Philippine Nurses Association, and staff members Mount St. Vincent's Hospital. Vinluan was represented by his attorney, Oscar Michelen, while the former Avalon Gardens nurses were represented by their attorney, James Druker.

After a more than one-hour conference with Michelen and Druker, Judge Doyle moved to postpone the hearing till Monday, December 17.

"These stall tactics are often used to demoralize," stated Michelen and Druker as the explained the judge's decision to the nurses in a caucus outside the courtroom.

The Avalon 11 have been able to withstand for the past year various stall tactics by the court system to postpone dates and divide-and-conquer attempts of the Sentosa camp, but agreed to not let this latest postponement diminish their morale and unity.

"We will just come back with more supporters," stated Felix Vinluan, who was joined by his children. "We are not disheartened by this. We draw great strength from our many supporters and allies."

An online petition accessible at www.petitiononline.com/j4s27 has already garnered thousands of signatures calling for the State of New York to drop all criminal and civil charges on the Sentosa 27 and investigate the operations of the SentosaCare LLC and Philipson.

Vinluan and the nurses have filed a pending special request with Governor Spitzer requesting for a special prosecutor, unconvinced they will receive a fair and objective trial with the Suffolk County District Attorney, given Philipson's big political connections and interest to divert public attention from his own company's criminal operations.

Upon leaving the courtroom, the Avalon 11 were welcomed by an energetic picket led by NAFCON. Chanters shouted "Prosecute Sentosa, not the nurses!" Picketers were marked by bright yellow t-shirts that read: THESE NURSES ARE NOT CRIMINALS! THEY SAVE LIVES! The picket ended with the group singing of "Solidarity Forever" led by NYSNA.

"We will never let up. We believe that justice will be served, no matter how long or winding the road is. The Avalon 11 have the truth on their side. Sentosa does not," stated NAFCON representative Rico Foz. ###