Three South Florida nursing schools handed out 7,600 fake diplomas

There could be thousands of nurses practicing the profession who bought their title (Photo: Getty Images) (David Greedy /)

three nursing schoolsnow closed, in South Florida, sold fake diplomas worth more than $100 million in total.

Federal authorities conducted an investigation that culminated in the prosecution of more than two dozen people in this case. The attorney for the southern district of Florida, Markenzy Lapointe, appeared before the press along with FBI officials and the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services to give the details of his investigation.

“We have filed charges against individuals in various states for different types of crimes ranging from fraud in the transfer of funds to conspiracy,” said Lapointe, who also confirmed that the investigation took them to Florida, New Jersey, Texas, New York and Delaware.

Of the 25 defendants, 21 have already been arrested and two more are expected to turn themselves in in the next few hours. The operation was named Nightingale, after the nurse and researcher Florence Nightingale. The fraud scheme included the owners, operators and employees of three nursing schools previously licensed by the department of education. They sold each of the nursing degrees for an average of $15,000 each.

The FBI carried out the investigation that took place in five states REUTERS / Leah Millis
The FBI carried out the investigation that took place in five states REUTERS/Leah Millis (LEAH MILLIS/)

“The supposed new nurses had done nothing to deserve the title”Lapointe added.

The schools in which this fraud occurred were the Sacred Heart International Institute, in Fort Lauderdale, Siena College of Health, in Lauderhill, and the Palm Beach School of Nursing, in West Palm Beach.

In total, they estimate that some 7,600 diplomas fake nursing services, with revenues of around $114 million. Florida law states that anyone graduating with a nursing degree must pass a state written exam in order to practice. Of all those who bought their diplomas, it is estimated that one third would have passed the exam and would be practicing illegally.

The officials stressed that there is no record of people who have been cared for negligently by these false nurses, but that does not mean that there is imminent danger if there are people working who were not instructed and who received their diploma fraudulently.

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