A newly discovered scheme has rocked the medical industry after it was found that it had been selling fake nursing diplomas and transcripts to immigrants mostly of Haitian descent, according to a WSWS report.
An investigation revealed that three accredited Florida-based nursing schools (Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute), allowed aspiring nursing candidates to obtain licensure without going through the formal process of obtaining one. Investigators say in some cases, others would sit in for the nurses during exams so they could receive passing marks.
“Those charged include administrators of the involved nursing schools and administrators of several test preparation academies across the country that recruited interested parties to purchase the fake diplomas,” the report reads. “Charges include wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.”
To date, those who obtained the fake diplomas have not been charged, although state nursing boards are currently working to find and annul the licenses in question. Some states have already annulled fraudulent licenses, including 26 in Delaware and 22 in Georgia. “Seventy-seven licenses are under review in Washington state. It has been left to the discretion of the nursing regulatory bodies in affected states to investigate individual cases and take appropriate action in accordance with their state laws and due process.” The scandal also raises eyebrows about whether state nursing boards knew about the malpractice long before news broke but turned the other cheek.
According to the report, “between 2016 and 2021, a total of $114 million changed hands in exchange for the fake degrees with “students” paying between $10,000 and $17,000 for the service and never stepping foot in a classroom or clinical setting. Out of the 7,600 degrees sold, only about 2,400 people eventually passed the licensing exam and were eligible for employment in health care facilities.”
The US Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Inspector General were first warned about the fraud in 2019. Two business people have since been convicted of the fraud. The co-owners of PowerfulU Health Care Services LLC, Geralda Adrien and Woosvelt Predestin, pleaded guilty of processing fraudulent applications and were sentenced to 27 months in prison. Twenty-five other defendants are currently being charged.
It has been reported that the nurses with the fake degrees found employment in various settings, including pediatric home care, assisted living facilities and veterans hospitals in several states, including Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Georgia, Maryland and Texas.
One nurse told WSWS that while the US Department of Health and Human Services are working towards cracking down on the fraud, she doesn’t believe much will be done in the long-term.
“Once they start pulling on threads it will uncover patient harm and (more importantly to them) liability to their precious hospital systems/top donors.”