Federal authorities have charged 25 persons in Florida with taking part in a wire fraud operation that provided illegal shortcuts for aspirant nurses to obtain licenses and employment.
Federal prosecutors stated during a news conference in Miami on Wednesday afternoon that recently unsealed federal grand jury indictments accuse the defendants of taking part in a scam that sold more than 7,600 fake nursing degree credentials from three Florida-based nursing schools.
According to the prosecution, the scheme also involved nursing school transcripts for individuals seeking licenses and employment as registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses. Each defendant could spend up to 20 years behind bars.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe stated, “Is Not only this a public safety concern, but it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who genuinely finish the arduous clinical and course work required to get their professional licensure and employment.”
A fraud scheme undermines public confidence in our healthcare system, continued Lapointe. Those who bought the fake transcripts and credentials were eligible to take the national nursing board exam. Prosecutors claimed they might apply for licenses and positions in several states if they succeeded.
Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing, and Sacred Heart International Institute, the institutions involved, are now closed.
The Miami Herald said that some people who bought degrees were from the Haitian-American population in South Florida, including some who had real LPN credentials and sought to become registered nurses.
According to acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough, “healthcare fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many con artists see this as a way to generate easy, but unlawful, money.”
He said it’s especially troubling that more than 7,600 persons nationwide received phony credentials and may have been working in life-or-death patient care positions.
A felony that “possibly endangers the health and safety of patients and insults the dignified profession of nursing” is the buying and selling nursing degrees and transcripts to “willing but unqualified individuals.” However, according to Perez, none of the nurses were determined to have harmed any patients.
Between 2016 and 2021, the students spent a total of $114 million on phony degrees, according to the publication. Federal officials reported that 2,400 of the 7,600 students eventually passed their license exams, mainly in New York.
Florida and several other states permit the practice of nurses who received their certification in New York. According to federal officials, many people could lose their accreditation but are unlikely to face criminal charges.
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