Fake Degree Alert
In January 2023, a colossal fake nursing degree scandal rocked the U.S. nursing profession. Nearly 7,600 students from three once-accredited South Florida schools purchased approximately $114 million in counterfeit nursing diplomas, putting their careers and the integrity of nursing education on the line.
State nursing boards across the nation are now on high alert, investigating and charging nurses suspected of fraudulently obtaining their credentials.
Despite some nurses’ claims of attending legitimate classes and passing exams, authorities have uncovered disturbing details about the scam.
The Fake Nursing Degree Scandal
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida revealed in January 2023 that over two dozen individuals, including school officials, recruiters, and students, faced charges in a wire fraud scheme that provided a fast track for aspiring nurses. Many nurses caught in the scandal assert their innocence, unaware of the fraud.
Two nurses, speaking anonymously to Newsweek in May 2023, expressed their concerns. “You can’t even mention the school you attended now, fearing blacklisting,” one of them lamented.
Students purchased fake diplomas and transcripts from previously accredited schools, bypassing essential steps in the licensure process, including the NCLEX examination. The implicated schools are Siena College of Health, Palm Beach School of Nursing, and the Sacred Heart International Institute in Florida.
In May 2023, prosecutors revealed that five individuals pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges. Three confessed to soliciting nursing students who paid $15,000 for fraudulent nursing diplomas.
“We expect our healthcare professionals to be who they claim they are. A shortcut is unacceptable,” U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe stated.
Responses to License Revocations
Many affected nurses deny allegations of shortcuts. By mid-2023, stories emerged of students travelling for classes, completing online coursework, and conducting clinicals under supervision.
Ramatu Ali, from Delaware, is one such nurse. She attended an open house for the Palm Beach School of Nursing and diligently checked the school’s credentials. Despite challenges, she passed the NCLEX but later had her license revoked.
Approximately 100 nurses are represented by lawyer Joseph Lento, fighting to retain their licenses and considering a class-action lawsuit against deceptive schools.
In Miami, attorney Jamal Jones is advocating for a group of nurses, aiming to prove they did not fraudulently obtain diplomas.
“Every day it’s a roller coaster, and your livelihood is being threatened. You don’t want to do anything because you don’t know when it’s your last paycheck,” one nurse aptly stated.
The fake nursing degree scandal exposes a breach of trust, as thousands of nurses are in turmoil as they strive to clear their names and careers.