By: April Carson
On Thursday, federal prosecutors exposed a fraudulent scheme in which three Florida nursing schools sold thousands of phony nursing diplomas worth millions of dollars to aspiring nurses who wanted to bypass the necessary training and obtain licensure in their profession.
South Florida-based Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing, and Sacred Heart International Institute fraudulently issued over 7600 phony diplomas for a staggering $100 million - nearly $15000 apiece. Unsurprisingly, all three schools are no longer in operation.
A total of twenty-five individuals, including both school directors and diploma recipients, were named in the charges; each held liable for up to 20 years imprisonment if convicted. Unfortunately, no attorneys appeared on behalf of the defendants when accessing information from a federal court database.
This scandal is a stark reminder of the risks posed to prospective students who do not take the necessary steps to ensure they are enrolling in an accredited program. Fake diplomas are worthless and those with them may face legal repercussions for attempting to pass them off as legitimate credentials.
The Department of Justice and the Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General conducted a thorough investigation, dubbed Operation Nightingale. This scheme had dangerous implications for patient safety as it lacked basic training programs that guarantee minimum qualifications & competencies - thus putting people's lives in jeopardy.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought five separate charges against those implicated in this major criminal operation. Each defendant is facing wire fraud-related accusations, which the law defines as "utilizing interstate electronic communications to execute a fraudulent act and/or further its objectives." As such, federal prosecutors are vigorously pursuing each case with utmost attention to detail.
In its investigation, the Office of Inspector General determined that a fraudulent scheme operated in three phases - recruiters supplied fake degrees and transcripts to help aspiring nurses pass their national nursing board exam; once successful on the test, they became eligible for licensing in numerous states where they proceeded to work as licensed nurses.
The scheme was vast and lucrative, with the sale of fraudulent diplomas worth more than $100 million in total. The mastermind behind this fraud is now facing a federal criminal charge as well as various civil lawsuits brought by former students alleging they were duped into paying money for useless credentials.
Sacred Heart International Institute
From November 2020 to July 2021, the owner of Sacred Heart International Institute, Charles Etienne, and two other individuals sold a total of 588 counterfeit diplomas and transcripts - as stated in court documents.
Geralda Adrien and Woosvelt Predestin, co-defendants in the case, had furthermore completed online courses for people wishing to purchase fraudulent degrees.
Adrien and Predestin are incriminated as accomplices in the Siena College incident.
The case is considered "one of the most significant college fraud schemes in U.S. history," according to a press release issued by the United States Department of Justice.
Palm Beach School of Nursing
Between April 2016 through July 2021, numerous nurses attained counterfeit diplomas from the Johanah Napoleon-owned Palm Beach School of Nursing, Sunshine Academy, Quisqeya, and Florida College of Health.
All seven nurses used their diplomas to successfully obtain licensure in Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.
Through the acquisition of counterfeit credentials, nurses were able to secure employment in nursing facilities accepting Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Incredibly, one nurse even managed to gain a position at an establishment operated by Veterans Affairs.
The fraudulent certificates are estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $100 million.
In 2021, Napoleon reaped lucrative profits by distributing fraudulent certificates - accepting a $30,000 wire transfer from an accomplice. Already having been convicted of both wire and health care fraud charges according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), his illicit activities were not overlooked.
By the law of Florida, Siena College was a Broward County school certified to deliver practical nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs. This legality is established by documentation within the criminal complaint.
Eunice Sanon, the director of the college, allegedly collaborated with three individuals from New York and New Jersey to enlist promising nurses. All four are now facing charges.
Over three years from late 2018 to early 2021, Sanon allegedly sold 2,016 illegitimate diplomas and transcripts falsely claiming that customers had completed the required studies for Siena College degrees when in fact they hadn't. This is according to a criminal complaint filed against him.
These fake documents had a market value of over $100 million, and cost the customers an average fee of $49,000.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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