UNITED States (US) federal agents have launched a multi-state operation that is focused on busting a massive fraudulent nursing diploma scheme.
Consequently, the Texas Board of Nursing has released a 75-person probe list of individuals under investigation for fraudulent nursing credentials just as other states move to crack down on nurses with fake diplomas from South Florida schools.
Forty-three of the names were identified as nurses of Nigerian origin.
These individuals were accused of selling false and fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts to fake nurses for $15,000 each, raising serious questions about patient safety in US health institutions.
According to information on the Board’s website about the probe tagged ‘Operation Nightingale’, the individuals who acquired the fraudulent nursing credentials used them to qualify to sit for the national nursing board exam.
Upon successful completion of the board exam, the nursing applicants reportedly became eligible to obtain licensure in various states to work as a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/VN).
The Board said it had filed “Formal Charges” against the nurses for fraudulently obtaining educational credentials and according to the US Department of Justice, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.
“Please note that Formal Charges are not a final disciplinary action, and a nurse is permitted to work, as a nurse, while Formal Charges are pending,” the Board added.
The Department of Justice in a press release stated that more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas were issued and distributed by three South Florida-based nursing schools.
The schools, which have since closed, include Siena College in Broward County, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County.
However, it is believed that there were multiple other schools involved in the scheme in addition to the three schools listed and thousands of practicing nurses in the US could potentially be working with bogus academic credentials.
The Board has said it would continue to update its list as it receives additional information about the fraudulent diploma/transcript scheme.
“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,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe.