Three colleges implicated in Florida scheme to issue fraudulent nursing diplomas
The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida has pressed charges against 25 individuals for wire fraud schemes in DE, NY, NJ, TX, and FL.
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The United States Attorney’s office in the Southern District of Florida reported charges against 25 individuals for a wire fraud scheme — more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three Florida Colleges: Siena College and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County, and Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County.
The scam consisted of purchasing diplomas and transcripts from accredited Florida-based nursing schools, which allowed degree holders to sit for the national nursing board exam, if passed, obtain RN and LPN/VN licenses and work in different states.
“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.”
Operation Nightingale, as the investigation was known, was a multi-state operation with execution of search warrants in several states: Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas and Florida. The 25 individuals being charged face up to 20 years in prison.
For a fee of $15,000, individuals were able to practice medicine — posing a serious question about patient safety in U.S. healthcare.
“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). “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG continues to aggressively investigate bad actors who so brazenly disregard the well-being of others in order to enrich themselves fraudulently.”
The press release also revealed that Palm Beach School of Nursing’s owner Johanna Napoleon was involved in the scheme, and was “previously charged by information and has pled guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as wire fraud.”
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