Thousands of Florida nursing students got fake diplomas in alleged scheme

  • In US
  • 2023-01-27 14:05:06Z
  • By CBS News

Thousands of practicing nurses in the U.S. could potentially be working with bogus academic credentials after federal officials uncovered an alleged scheme at three South Florida nursing schools. The Department of Justice said Wednesday that the schools, now closed, allegedly issued more than 7,600 fake and unearned nursing diplomas.

The schools involved in the alleged scheme include Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute. The Justice Department has charged more than two dozen people for their alleged involvement, saying they "engaged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools." Each of those defendants now faces up to 20 years in prison.

According to charging documents, many of those involved in the alleged scheme are from out-of-state, including people from New York and New Jersey. The nurses with the fake degrees went on to work in various settings, including for homebound children, assisted living facilities and veteran affairs, and in several states, documents show, including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland and Texas.

The alleged schemes took place between 2016 and 2021.

Those who got the fake diplomas were able to take the national nursing board exam and then obtain licenses and jobs in "various states" as registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and vocational nurses (VNs)," the DOJ said.

Markenzy Lapointe, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, said a scheme such as this "erodes public trust in our health care system."

"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," Lapointe said.

Among those charged are Burlington County, New Jersey, residents Stanton Witherspoon and Alfred Sellu and Westchester County, New York, resident Rene Bernadel. Prosecutors said the three "solicited and recruited" people seeking nursing credentials and then worked with Eunide Sanon of Siena College "to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts" that were sold to "thousands" of nursing applications. Those papers incorrectly stated that the aspiring nurses had attended the Broward County nursing program and completed their courses and clinicals, prosecutors allege.

The other schools named allegedly did the same.

American Nurses Association President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy said Thursday that the "coordinated conspiracy" is "disturbing" and "deeply unsettling."

"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," she said. "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 health care landscape to ensure the delivery of safe and quality patient care."

The actions of those involved, including the schools that were once accredited, are "simply deplorable," she said.

"This undermines everything the nursing profession represents and stands for and is in direct opposition to the Code of Ethics for Nurses," she said. "Furthermore, these unlawful and unethical acts disparage the reputation of actual nurses everywhere who have rightfully earned the title of the 'Most Trusted and Ethical Professionals' through their education, hard work, dedication and time."

Trains see boost in passengers looking for an alternative to flying

MoneyWatch: Hiring boost for job-seekers this winter

Holocaust survivors create cookbook to share Jewish recipes, stories of perseverance


More Related News

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine hurt after getting jumped at a South Florida gym, deputies say
Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine hurt after getting jumped at a South Florida gym, deputies say
  • US
  • 2023-03-22 18:47:18Z

The polarizing New York artist sustained non-life threatening injuries after the fracas at an LA Fitness in South Florida, authorities said.

Tekashi 6ix9ine hospitalized after bloody attack at an LA Fitness in South Florida
Tekashi 6ix9ine hospitalized after bloody attack at an LA Fitness in South Florida
  • US
  • 2023-03-22 17:58:34Z

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine landed in the hospital after he was attacked by a group of men in a South Florida gym, the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office announced.

Behind massive seaweed belt headed for some Atlantic beaches
Behind massive seaweed belt headed for some Atlantic beaches

A 5,000-mile seaweed belt lurking in the Atlantic Ocean is expected in the next few months to wash onto beaches in the Caribbean Sea, South Florida, and the ...

March Madness Mix: Dominant Gamecocks amid Sweet 16 parity
March Madness Mix: Dominant Gamecocks amid Sweet 16 parity

South Carolina is keenly aware that everyone remaining in the women's NCAA Tournament field is coming after the undefeated Gamecocks - and hard. If they didn't before, each of the Sweet 16 teams believe they can knock out the defending national champions, no matter how dominant the Gamecocks have been. Rebecca Lobo, the former UConn star turned ESPN analyst, calls South Carolina's dominance combined with Sweet 16 parity "an interesting dichotomy."

Def Leppard drummer recovering from attack outside hotel
Def Leppard drummer recovering from attack outside hotel
  • World
  • 2023-03-21 17:37:13Z

Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen says he is recovering from an attack earlier this month outside a Florida hotel. Allen, who was in South Florida to perform a...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: US