Florida scheme produces 7,600 fraudulent nursing degrees In a shocking turn of events, federal authorities in Florida have charged 25 individuals with participating in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal shortcut for aspiring nurses to get licensed and find employment. The scheme involved the sale of more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing degree diplomas from three Florida-based nursing schools, along with transcripts, to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses.
According to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe, not only is this a public safety concern, but it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who have actually completed the demanding clinical and coursework required to obtain their professional licenses and employment. Lapointe added that a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.
The fake diplomas and transcripts qualified those who purchased them to sit for the national nursing board exam. If they passed, they were able to obtain licenses and jobs in various states, prosecutors said. The schools involved in the scam, Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute, are now closed.
It is particularly disturbing that more than 7,600 people around the country obtained fake credentials and were potentially in critical health care roles treating patients. The 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.
Despite the severity of the crime, investigators have not yet found that any of the nurses caused harm to patients. The students paid a total of $114 million for the fake degrees between 2016 and 2021, and about 2,400 of the 7,600 students eventually passed their licensing exams, mainly in New York. Nurses certified in New York are allowed to practice in Florida and many other states.
This is a stark reminder of the importance of proper background checks and verification of credentials in the healthcare industry. It is crucial that we maintain the integrity of the nursing profession and ensure that only qualified individuals are able to practice. The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison. TBT