Authored by Katabella Roberts via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Around 25 people have been charged for their roles in a huge coordinated scheme to sell false and fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts to aspiring nurses, the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) announced on Jan. 25.
HHS-OIG and its law enforcement partners conducted a “multi-state coordinated law enforcement action” dubbed “Operation Nightingale” using search warrants across Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida, to arrest about 25 individuals who were allegedly part of the fraud, according to a press release.
The scheme involved the individuals selling fake and fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to aspiring registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, and vocational nurse candidates.
According to officials, those who acquired the fake nursing credentials used them to qualify to sit for the national nursing board exam that is needed to obtain a nursing license in the United States.
After passing the exam, the individuals were able to obtain the licenses and take nursing jobs in various states, officials said.
The scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas and transcripts by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County, HHS-OIG said.
The three schools are now closed.
Scheme Is ‘Public Safety Concern’
Each of the defendants allegedly involved in the fraud scheme faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, according to a separate statement issued by the Department of Justice.
DOJ prosecutors said that the charges “speak to the purpose of a nursing license which is to protect the public from harm by setting minimum qualifications and competencies,” adding that the fake nursing diplomas and transcripts allowed aspiring nurses to take “employment shortcuts.”
“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.
He added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
Three individuals were charged with conspiring to commit and committing wire fraud at Siena College. Prosecutors allege that the three arranged with the manager of the college, Eugene Sanon, to create and distribute the false diplomas and transcripts, making it seem as though the individuals who received them had completed all the necessary courses and clinical experience needed to obtain the diplomas.
“In fact, the aspiring nurses never completed the necessary courses and clinical,” prosecutors said.
Sanon was charged by information with wire fraud conspiracy.
Fake Nurse Diplomas Sold for Up to $17,000
At Palm Beach School of Nursing, prosecutors charged 14 individuals with conspiring to commit and committing wire fraud, alleging that they arranged with the school’s owner, Johanah Napoleon, and four school employees to make and hand out the fake diplomas and transcripts to aspiring nurses.
Napoleon was previously charged by information and has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, according to prosecutors.
Elsewhere at Sacred Heart International Institute, six individuals were given the same charges after prosecutors claimed that they organized with Charles Etienne, Sacred Heart’s owner, to sell the fake documents.
Defendants in the scheme allegedly charged individuals between $10,000 for a licensed practical nurse degree and $17,000 for a registered nurse diploma, the Miami Herald reported.
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Thu, 01/26/2023 - 21:30