MIAMI, FL. - Recently, unsealed federal grand jury indictments have revealed a large-scale fraud scheme designed to create an illegal shortcut for aspiring nurses to obtain their nursing degree and seek employment. Federal authorities in Florida have charged 25 people with participating in the scam, which was responsible for selling more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing degree diplomas from three different Florida-based nursing schools.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison for their involvement in the illicit operation, including transcripts from the three nursing schools intended for those seeking licensure and employment as registered nurses or licensed practical/vocational nurses.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe commented on the situation, saying that
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."
He added that "a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system."
The fake diplomas and transcripts issued by Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing, and Sacred Heart International Institute were designed to qualify students who purchased them for the national nursing board exam. If they passed, they could then go on to gain licensure and jobs in multiple states across America.
These credentials were mainly distributed among South Florida's Haitian-American community, with some legitimate LPN license holders using them to transition into registered nurse roles. Acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough expressed his concern over such fraud-related activities, noting how they had a detrimental impact on patient healthcare safety standards as well as posing harm to both those involved and honest practitioners working within the industry:
Healthcare fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy (though illegal) money [...] It's particularly disturbing that more than 7,600 people around the country obtained fake credentials and were potentially in critical health care roles treating patients".
In total, $114 million was paid out by these students seeking fraudulent qualifications between 2016 and 2021; approximately 2,400 of those 7,600 students eventually passed their licensing exams - mainly issued in New York State - allowing them access to practice their profession even within Florida itself.
However, Omar Pérez Aybar - Special Agent In Charge at the U.S Department Of Health & Human Services Office Of Inspector General (OIG) – noted that while there have been no reported cases of any harm caused by these illegitimate professionals so far:
the selling and purchasing of nursing diplomas and transcripts to "willing but unqualified individuals" is still a crime that "potentially endangers the health and safety of patients [...], insulting [thereby] the honorable profession of nursing".
After the news conference on Wednesday, the three nursing schools that were part of the scam are now closed. The people running the scam were trying to make money illegally by taking advantage of people who were desperate enough to pay for these services. This reminds us how important it is to be careful when choosing medical practitioners and to ensure our government supports healthcare workers and provides thorough education. This will help us protect ourselves against any future attempts to harm us.
Comments / 2