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DC opens investigation into bogus cosmetology licenses minutes after 7News I-Team story

DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (7News){p}{/p}
DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (7News)

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D.C.'s Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) has informed 7News that an active investigation is now underway inside its own department. The action comes on the heels of a 7News I-Team investigation into the selling of fraudulent cosmetology and barber licenses by a former member of the D.C. Cosmetology Board. DLCP has yet to tell 7News who is conducting the investigation and when it started.

“What she said to me was, 'you won’t be successful without me. This won’t happen without me,'” David Brunson, a victim of the scheme, said.

Brunson is talking about Olivia French, the one-time owner of a D.C. beauty school called, "The French Institute" and a former member of the D.C. Cosmetology Board. French was appointed to the board by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

RELATED | Bogus beauty, nail and barber licenses being sold under the table in DC: 7News I-Team

“She’s a seasoned manipulator,” Brunson said regarding French.

Brunson teamed up with French to start his own beauty school, but never opened it after learning she was fraudulently selling cosmetology and barber licenses to students for thousands of dollars. French would kick back some of the money to an official in D.C.'s Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection.

Students got the licenses without taking required classes or passing written exams and by submitting they attended French’s closed beauty school on their application.

“I’m guilty. And I’m ready to pay the price,” said Olivia French.

French admitted her involvement in the pay-to-play scam when 7News I-Team caught up with her near her home in the District. She said she paid a D.C. department insider up to $500 an application for the past four years.

“Yeah, how much money are we talking about?" asked 7News Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor. "Thousands of dollars for each person?”

“You’re talking about thousands,” French confirmed.

Brunson, who is also a commercial airline pilot, said he tried to warn District officials multiple times about the scam and exchanged emails with a DLCP investigator. He explained his messages fell on deaf ears.

“There’s been no results from anything,” added Brunson.

That's when Brunson reached out to 7News I-Team. On multiple occasions, we tried to get D.C. officials' attention so the District could conduct its own investigation. Incredibly, no one at DLCP was interested. They said they would not go on camera and suggested 7News contact the Inspector General’s Office.

The Office of the Inspector General's (IG) office in D.C. didn’t want to hear what we learned either. They told 7News to call their hotline. Which, by the way, was having problems.

“The wireless customer you are calling is not available. Please try again later,” said the voice prompt on the IG's hotline.

7News also sent multiple emails to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office and called several times. 7News alerted her office to the potential fraud at DLCP but never got any official response.

DLCP’s Interim Director, Shirley Kwan-Hui declined our interview requests, so we caught up to her as she was leaving her office.

“Do you want to know about fraudulent activity in your department?" asked 7News Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor. "What is your department trying to cover up, that you won’t sit down and talk with us?”

“There is nothing that we are covering up, but I will have Charles...” responded Kwan-Hui.

“Then why haven’t you been transparent and cooperative and sat down with us?” asked Taylor.

“Yeah, give me one second,” said Kwan-Hui.

“So, you’re not going to let us know?” asked Taylor.

“I have an appointment,” said Kwan-Hui.

“Okay, I’d love to sit down and talk to you,” said Taylor as Director Kwan-Hui walked out the front door of her D.C. downtown office building.

French did sit down with 7News after our interview on the street.

“Effi was a very good friend of mine,” French said.

French claimed former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s ex-wife, Effi Barry, was one of her former salon customers along with other celebrities including boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and members of the band, The Drifters.

She said she needed the licensing scam to financially survive and is now exposing it all because she wants people to know about government corruption.

“What do you say to people who earn these licenses the right way, and went to 1,500 hours of school, paid everything, took the tests, and they find out that I could have just went to you, and gotten one easily?" asked Taylor. "What would you say to them?”

“Well, I would say to them that it is a sad commentary that this is what happens in the government, that if you can pay, you can play,” responded French.

Minutes after our initial I-Team investigation aired on 7News at 6 p.m. on Monday, DLCP emailed this statement Monday:

"While the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) is committed to being transparent with the public, this matter is a part of an active investigation. At this time, DLCP is not at liberty to make any further comment on this matter. Furthermore, DLCP does not comment on personnel or human resource matters. If the public has a specific complaint regarding the validity of a board of cosmetology and barber license, they can submit their complaint to It is imperative that a complainant cooperate with the agency to allow the agency to comprehensively investigate the matter.


Charles Basham III | Communications and Marketing Manager, Office of the Director

The Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection"

Previously, 7News was contacted by D.C.'s Higher Education Licensure Commission which gives out licenses to beauty schools in D.C. and wrote it was conducting its own investigation. 7News never filed a complaint but we did reach out to the commission with questions three months ago. Here is the commission's email to 7News:

"This letter is to acknowledge that the Higher Education Licensure Commission (“Commission”) received your complaint against French Institute on October 24, 2022.

D.C. Code 38-1306 and 5-A DCMR 8019 and 8132 give the Commission authority to investigate your complaint. Investigations may take several months depending on the nature and complexity of the complaint. The Commission may contact you during the investigation in order to obtain additional information. Upon completion of the investigation, you will receive notice of any proposed actions and/or the date and time when the Commission is scheduled to take action on the complaint.

Should you have any questions regarding this process, please contact me by phone at (202) 481-3951 or at

Thank you kindly,

Maia Bailey-Turner

Maia N. Bailey-Turner

Staff Assistant/Contract Admin.

Higher Education Licensure Commission

Division of Post-Secondary Career Education

Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)"

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Tips on how to select a trained and professional cosmetologist:

  • Make sure you research your Salon and Stylist. You can do that online through social media and through government licensing departments. Word of mouth is also helpful in this type of field.
  • Meet and interview any potential new salon worker before your next appointment. Ask about their professional qualifications and their continuing education. Plus ask for references from current clients.
  • Make an appointment for a small procedure. If you like what you see, then ramp it up to a full salon treatment.
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