From the Justice Department:
More than two dozen individuals have been charged in the Southern District of Florida for their alleged participation in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses.
According to three recently unsealed indictments returned by a South Florida federal grand jury and two informations filed by federal prosecutors, defendants engaged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs).
The bogus diplomas and transcripts qualified purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPN/VNs.
The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Fla., Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County.
These schools are now closed. Each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison. The charges speak to the purpose of a nursing license which is to protect the public from harm by setting minimum qualifications and competencies.
Miami’s CBS affiliate reports:
“Not only is this a public safety concern, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe, who added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
“The alleged selling and purchasing of nursing diplomas and transcripts to willing but unqualified individuals is a crime that potentially endangers the health and safety of patients and insults the honorable profession of nursing,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar of Department of Health and Human Services. Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG)
The fake diplomas were sold for $15,000, netting the ring an estimated $114 million.
25 charged in fraudulent nursing diploma scheme centered in South Florida https://t.co/Tg2m7g3JUx
— CBS4 Miami (@CBSMiami) January 26, 2023
#NewsAlert: Operation Nightingale resulted in charges against 25 individuals involved in the distribution of over 7,600+ fake nursing school diplomas and transcripts issued by Florida-based nursing programs. Read more: https://t.co/tvstEhD67D. pic.twitter.com/B8jlF3QKHf
— OIG at HHS (@OIGatHHS) January 25, 2023