(NewsNation) — A Georgia attorney says legitimate nurses have been asked to surrender their licenses after a federal investigation revealed scammers sold fake diplomas.
In a scheme dubbed Operation Nightingale, the feds are working to pin down a ring of scammers believed to have sold fake nursing diplomas to nearly 8,000 aspiring students.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office identified 22 people in the state who received fake diplomas, and 17 who obtained their licenses. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said those 17 people have been asked to return their licenses.
Hahnah Williams, an attorney representing five of those nurses, said her clients went to the three South Florida nursing schools where transcripts were sold, but she maintains their educations are legitimate.
“We don’t know how the government came up with the 7,600 nurses on that list,” Williams said. “It could be as simple as anyone who ever went to any of these accredited schools wound up on the list.”
Raffensperger joined NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” this week and said officials would see that nurses who paid for fraudulent diplomas or transcripts are brought to justice.
Williams, however, said innocent nurses, including her clients, are being dragged down with them.
“No one wants a fraudulent nurse taking care of them or their loved one. However, there are legitimate students who went to that school, and that fact can be proven by the fact that that school was accredited,” Williams said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed to NewsNation Friday that of the nearly 8,000 students involved, at least 2,100 passed their licensure exams.
Twenty-five people have been charged, accused of selling the fraudulent diplomas and transcripts to students, some of whom paid between $10 and $15,000. Federal agents have said the students used the phony records to sit in on board exams and to bypass classes and clinicals.