Twenty-five defendants face up to 20 years in prison after being charged in a scheme to sell more than 7,600 fake nursing degrees.
Federal authorities said the fraudulent diplomas came from three Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute. All three are now closed.
In addition to diplomas, the Associated Press reported, the scheme included selling transcripts to people seeking a license or job as a registered nurse or licensed practical/vocational nurse.
“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,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe said at a Wednesday news conference in Miami, according to the AP.
Anyone who bought a fake diploma or transcript could sit for the national nursing board exam and, if they passed, get licenses and jobs in several states.
The selling 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,” Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar said at the news conference, according to AP. There is no evidence any of the nurses have harmed patients, he added.
From 2016 to 2021, the Miami Herald reported, students paid $114 million in all for the fake degrees, and 2,400 of the 7,600 passed their licensing exams.
Federal officials said those students might lose their credentials but likely won’t be charged.
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