Massive Nursing Diploma Fraud Scheme Uncovered
Last Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, The Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Florida announced the takedown of a massive nursing diploma fraud scheme.
Charges were brought against 25 individuals who were allegedly involved in the scheme to sell fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts from various nursing schools based in Florida.
The fraudulent diplomas and transcripts allowed purchasers to skip important educational components required before sitting for the national nursing board exam. After passing the exam, purchasers were then granted licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPNs/VNs).
In the press release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe noted:
“Not only is this a public safety concern, but it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment. A fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
Six Florida schools were implicated in this scheme:
- Siena College
- Quisqueya Health Care Academy
- Quisqueya Nursing School
- Florida College of Health
- Sacred Heart International Institute
- Palm Beach School of Nursing
These schools are now closed.
What is the scope of impact?
Over the course of several years, more than 7,600 fraudulent certifications, transcripts, and diplomas were issued by registrars at the six implicated nursing schools. Charged individuals in the scheme included owners and operators of the schools as well.
More than $100 million exchanged hands in this scheme. Purchasers would spend up to $15,000 in exchange for the fraudulent records. Each purchaser was therefore able to skip hundreds of hours of training and experience required to obtain their licenses.
The Justice Department worked with the Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in what they called “Operation Nightingale.” This name was in honor of Florence Nightingale, who is widely regarded as the founder of modern nursing due to her work organizing care for wounded soldiers in the Crimean War.
Since the potential for patient harm from these untrained individuals is the top priority, the authorities involved in Operation Nightingale have been sharing their information with state licensing boards. It is now up to these boards to take appropriate action on the 7,600+ individuals who are or have been practicing nursing in the United States.
As for the individuals charged in this scheme, each one faces up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy.
How are we working to protect our clients?
PreCheck/Cisive is taking the following steps in response to this news:
- We have confirmed all six schools are now listed in our system as closed and unaccredited. Two of these schools were already listed as closed and unaccredited as of March 2022 (Siena College and Palm Beach School of Nursing).
- Our healthcare team is currently reviewing all education verifications from 2021-present to see if we have any verifications from these schools. Clients will be notified if we have supplied a verification to your organization.
- We are monitoring to see if state boards begin actioning licenses through our proprietary LicenseManager Pro solution.
It’s important to note the schools involved were previously accredited, so not every graduate or diploma is suspect. The fraud was perpetrated by registrars at these institutions, and only for certain participants. Any organization attempting to verify these records would have obtained the same results from these institutions.
This is an evolving situation that our team is actively monitoring. We will continue to take appropriate steps to protect our clients.