Schools 'caught selling 7,600 fake diplomas' worth more than $100 million
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Thousands of nurses across the states may have forged credentials after three schools allegedly sold thousands of 'fake diplomas' to nursing students.
Between 2016 and 2021 Siena College, the Palm Beach School of Nursing, and Sacred Heart International Institute in Florida allegedly sold over 7,600 phoney documents.
These accreditations allowed students to go on to take nursing exams and gain jobs in hospitals and medical centres across the country.
The 'students' involved would be given the bogus documents, which said they attended an accredited nursing school, where they had completed their clinical coursework - though the truth was that they hadn't.
According to a federal investigation, students paid around $15,000 for their documents, with the operation worth a massive $100 million.
The schools involved have now lost their accreditation and over two dozen people have been arrested for their alleged part in the scam.
Prosecutors have since charged 25 people with fraud after they allegedly sold fake 'nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools'.
If they are found guilty, they could be sentenced to up to 20 years behind bars.
Among the people named in the indictment are Stanton Witherspoon and Alfred Sellu, from New Jersey, and Rene Bernadel, of New York.
They allegedly worked as recruiters for Sienna College, under manager Eunide Sanon, 'to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts'.
Charles Etienne, from Sacred Heart International Institute, is accused of having done the same thing with recruiters there.
And Johanah Napolean, head of the Palm Beach School of Nursing, allegedly coordinated the same scam with employees Cheryl Stanley, Krystal Lopez, Gail Russ and Ricky Riley.
Markenzy Lapointe is the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida and while announcing the charges, he blasted the racket for 'eroding public trust' in the US healthcare system.
He said: "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."
Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough, FBI Miami, added: "What is disturbing about this investigation is that there are over 7,600 people around the country with fraudulent nursing credentials who are potentially in critical healthcare roles treating patients.
"Were it not for the diligence and hard work of the investigators on this case, the extent of this fraud may not have been discovered.”
American Nursing Association President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy had similarly strong words over the alleged fraud.
In a statement, she said: "Nursing is without a doubt a highly specialized and ethical profession requiring rigorous and life-long education and training to acquire unmatched clinical expertise. You don't achieve this overnight.
"There are no shortcuts in nursing — our patients and clients depend on us. It is both a demanding and rewarding profession that requires individuals to be adaptive to the evolving and complex healthcare landscape to ensure the delivery of safe and quality patient care.
"This undermines everything the nursing profession represents and stands for, and is in direct opposition to the Code of Ethics for Nurses."