ORLANDO, Fla. — More than two-dozen people have been charged for their roles in a massive fraud scheme that provided bogus diplomas to thousands of nursing students.
According to the Department of Justice, executives from three South Florida-based nursing schools sold more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas for about $15,000 each.
One local recruiter for Florida healthcare facilities says he’s having to hire more people to do the cross referencing required to place healthcare workers like nurses.
The scheme allowed aspiring nurses to skip hours of clinical training and qualified them to sit for the National Nursing Board exam.
“My first thought was how could this happen? We’re placing nurses all day long,” StaffHealth Co-Founder Matthew Mawby said.
StaffHealth places healthcare workers in staffing positions across Florida and other states.
“These are people who were paying money. They were getting diplomas and recognition for doing work they didn’t do,” Mawby explained.
The scheme- called Operation Nightingale- is putting companies like Mawby’s in a tight spot, forcing them to hire more people to cross reference applications.
Each of the defendants in the case faces up to 20 years in prison.
Investigators say they’re working with licensing boards in each affected state to make sure anyone who got a fake diploma can’t put it to use.
“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 in a statement. “A fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
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