Multiple Georgia nurses nabbed after nursing school scam, but some say they earned their diplomas
The recent announcement by the FBI and Department of Justice on the bust of the $100 million nationwide nursing fraud ring called Operation Nightingale has reverberated into other states.
What started in states including Florida, Texas, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, has snagged nurses in Georgia. The alleged scheme suggests that thousands paid $15,000 each for a bogus diploma from three south Florida nursing schools.
Feds said instead of going to class, the nurses bought degrees and transcripts. The scheme, which created more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas, was uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In announcing the probe, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe said, “The fact of the matter is the nursing candidates had done no work for these diplomas.”
As a result of this federal probe, the Georgia Board of Nursing learned that 22 nurses practicing in the state have allegedly obtained their licenses with fake diplomas or transcripts from these schools.
Those nurses were sent letters asking them to voluntarily surrender their nursing licenses within 30 days. The Georgia nurses are allegedly among the thousands who paid $15,000 each for a bogus diploma from three south Florida nursing schools.
None of the accused nurses have responded to the Jan. 17 letter, but some have hired an attorney to say “not so fast” we earned our degrees. Their attorney, Hanna Williams, says that not everyone with a degree from those schools bought bogus documents and that her five clients are innocent and earned their degrees.
“My clients maintain that they are legitimate,” Williams said. Williams has gone on record to say that her clients will not surrender their nursing licenses because they have not done anything wrong.
Williams, who is also a nurse, said that there were some people who legitimately obtained their degrees from those schools. The Feds acknowledged that the schools were real, accredited nursing schools. Williams said, “Look, nobody wants a fraudulent nurse taking care of them or their loved ones. However, in this case, what we have are allegations and an investigation. We have to allow that process to play out before we rush to judgment”.
Williams says her clients want to regain their reputations and defend their licenses through the proper channels. “There’s been no determination of wrongdoing by any type of judicial body. So to rush to judgment and start firing nurses just because they went to an accredited school that’s been implicated in criminal activity is just wrong,” Williams said.
Three of those nurses accused of having sham degrees worked at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said, “Within days of learning of this nationwide scheme, we removed three nurses from patient care at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Their removal is very unfortunate but patient safety is and must be our primary responsibility at VA.”
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whose office oversees the nursing board said, “Our job is to make sure that our people in Georgia, our patients know they have credentialed nurses that are practicing there.”
Raffensperger confirmed that state investigators are working with the FBI to get the evidence needed to revoke the licenses of any of the nurses who refuse to surrender them voluntarily.
On January 25, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and its law enforcement partners launched a multi-state coordinated law enforcement action to apprehend individuals engaged in a scheme to sell false and fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts.
The enforcement action resulted in the execution of search warrants in Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida, and 25 individuals were charged for their involvement in the fraud scheme.
The alleged scheme involved the selling of fake and fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to aspiring Registered Nurse (RN) and Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/VN) candidates.
The individuals who acquired the bogus nursing credentials used them to qualify to sit for the national nursing board exam. Upon successful completion of the board exam, the nursing applicants became eligible to obtain licensure in various states to work as an RN or an LPN/VN.
Once licensed, the individuals were then able to obtain employment in the healthcare field. The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas and transcripts. These schools are now closed.