I-Team: Convicted Sex Offender Granted Nursing License - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Convicted Sex Offender Granted Nursing License

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LAS VEGAS -- A male nurse who has been working in Nevada since the 1980s is now accused of sexually assaulting four patients, including a young girl.

The I-Team has learned Paul Santiago received his nursing license, despite his status as a convicted sex offender.

The state nursing board knew Santiago was a registered sex offender when it gave him a license as a registered nurse.

The license gave him access to some of the valley's most vulnerable patients for nearly three decades.

For 18-year-old Kody, whose name is being withheld to protect her privacy, the autumn season signals the approach of a painful anniversary.

Christmas Day is for many children the happiest day of the year, but for Kody, that day in 2004 was the day she said she lost her innocence.

"This all could've been prevented I feel like – everything," Kody said.

On that Christmas Day, Kody, then 10 years old, said she was sexually assaulted by Santiago.

Then a foster child, Kody was placed at Montevista Hospital, a psychiatric facility, where Santiago, a convicted sex offender turned nurse, was trusted with her care.

"I don't want to see that guy," Kody said. "Last time I went to court in Las Vegas, like when he was there. He just sat there and smiled at me and it was really creepy."

Santiago faces criminal charges and a civil lawsuit for the alleged assault on Kody…

The civil lawsuit names him and his former employer, Montevista Hospital, which is now under new ownership.

"This isn't a case where he was hiding the fact that he has this criminal history," said Kody's attorney, Steven Day. "They shouldn't have allowed a person like this to work in the adolescent unit at Montevista Hospital.

Day said Santiago's prior conviction was on his employment application.

Public records show that Santiago disclosed his criminal history to both Montevista Hospital and the state nursing board.

He served three years in a California prison for assault with intent to commit rape.

Yet Santiago's crime did not prevent his employment or his licensure.

Nurse and attorney Edie Brous wrote the book on the law and ethics of nursing.

"If I were a Nevada resident, I'd be concerned," Brous said. "I'm kind of startled by this case because my experience with most nursing boards is they do a pretty good job of making sure that someone with this kind of history is not going to be issued a license."

It is unclear why the Nevada Nursing Board licensed a convicted sex offender.

It has refused the I-Team's repeated requests for an interview and the written record is spotty at best.

But in early 2005 the board became aware of Kody's allegations against Santiago, but nothing in the public record suggests the board took any action.

"If they get information that they have a nurse out there who is a sexual predator and who is a violent felon and who has now just harmed a vulnerable member of the public, then yeah, they should do whatever they need to do to protect that public," Brous said.

Instead, with his license intact, Santiago took a job as a nurse at the state psychiatric facility and maintained his employment even after his arrest for Kody's assault.

Then in 2008, in lieu of disciplinary action, the board allowed Santiago to voluntarily inactivate his license, a move that changed his status on paper, but not in practice.

In June 2012, while working at a medical facility, Santiago was again accused of sexual assault, this time by three additional victims.

"First time, second time, three times," Kody said. "How many times until it sinks in. That's what I just don't get."

Last July, noting Kody's case and the most recent allegations, the nursing board formally revoked Santiago's license, a move Kody has waited for for eight years.

"Hopefully I can get on with my life, try to be normal," she said. "But I'll always feel different."

The nursing board is appointed by the governor and appears to be accountable only to him.

The I-Team asked Gov. Brian Sandoval's office to look into the matter and were told it could not comment for legal reasons.

The board has yet to answer the I-Team's questions even though they were sent in writing.

An attorney for the board said they're working on answers.

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