- Three Florida schools sold 7,600 fake diplomas to nursing license applicants, officials said.
- Fake diplomas and transcripts qualified candidates for the national nursing board exam.
- They would have allowed buyers to potentially skip thousands of clinical trainings, prosecutors said.
Up to 7,600 people across the United States may be using fake nursing credentials under a program run by degree-selling Florida nursing schools, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Employees and owners of three accredited schools – Palm Beach School of Nursing, Siena College and Sacred Heart International Institute – are accused by the Justice Department of selling 7,600 diplomas and transcripts to people seeking licenses and employment of registered nurses and practical or professional nurses.
The fake credentials would not have given the buyer a nursing license, but it would qualify them to take the national board of nursing exam. They would only become registered nurses after passing this exam.
Yet the fake diplomas and transcripts, which cost up to $15,000 each, allegedly helped candidates skip “hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of clinical training,” Markenzy Lapointe, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. News.
In a Justice Department statement, officials said “recruiters” would approach potential buyers and conspire with school employees, officials or owners to create and distribute the fraudulent materials.
The diplomas would indicate that the buyer had completed the respective school’s nursing program, when he had never taken any classes there, prosecutors said.
A total of 25 people are charged with wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy for participating in the scheme, and each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.
All three schools have been closed, officials said. Siena College and Sacred Heart International Institute are in Broward County. The Palm Beach School of Nursing is in Palm Beach County.
“What is troubling about this investigation is that there are more than 7,600 people across the country with fraudulent nursing credentials who are potentially in critical healthcare roles treating patients,” a said Chad Yarbrough, an acting FBI special agent in Miami.
Authorities said they have yet to hear of any cases where a patient was harmed because they received treatment from someone who purchased a fake license through the program.
But the scale of the fraud operation has officials worried about the potential harm to patients, especially as the United States faces a nursing shortage that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.
“Not only is this a public safety issue, but it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who perform the demanding clinical and course work necessary to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” Lapointe said in the statement. Ministry of Justice.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.