(NewsNation) — Some of the students who officials say bought fraudulent nursing diplomas in a Florida-based scam went on to land health care jobs in several states.
Three schools in Florida issued more than 7,600 fake nursing transcripts and diplomas to students, according to investigators. Those fraudulent documents didn’t allow students to work professionally as nurses. Rather, they did fast-track them to take the national nursing exam, which is required to become a registered nurse.
Although the names of those former students haven’t been released, documents from the Department of Justice paint a picture of where they could be working now.
Their jobs include:
- Working with licensed Medicaid patients in Ohio and Georgia.
- Working with homebound pediatric patients in New York and Massachusetts.
- Employed at an assisted living facility in New Jersey.
- Caring for elderly patients in New York and Texas.
- Working for Veteran Affairs medical centers in New York and Maryland.
Investigators told NewsNation students paid as much as $10,000 for a degree.
The schools, which have since closed, included both Siena College of Health and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County, and Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County.
Now federal authorities have charged 25 people accused of participating in the scheme. Many of those who bought their credentials could lose certification but aren’t likely to face criminal charges, The Associated Press reported, citing federal officials.
Federal authorities in Florida called the scheme a public safety concern.
“These individuals (the alleged scammers) basically catered to folks that wanted to shortcut,” said Omar Perez Aybar, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “They never attended class. They never attended the clinical that they needed to do.”
About 30% of those students passed the national exam and went on to work for a health care provider, Perez Aybar said.
“There is a likelihood that certainly there are some individuals that are still working,” he said.
Investigators haven’t learned of any patient harm resulting from the scheme, according to a federal investigator who spoke to NewsNation.
Registered nurse Sara Warren said she’s saddened to learn people “decided to take this path” into nursing.
“I’m wondering how they were made to believe that this would be a safe way to get into the nursing field,” Warren said.