MIAMI — More than two dozen people have been charged in the South District of Florida for their alleged participation in a wire fraud program that created illegal licensing and reduced employment for prospective nurses.
According to three recently unsealed indictment letters returned by a South Florida state grand jury and two pieces of information filed by state attorneys, the defendants engaged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degrees and transcripts obtained from accredited nursing schools based there in Florida, Florida, those seeking licenses and employment as Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical/Professional Nurses (LPN/VNs) were sold.
Fake degrees and credentials qualified buyers to take the national nursing exam and, upon passing, obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPN/VNs. The grand plan involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing degrees issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Florida, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County. These schools are now closed.
Each accused faces up to 20 years in prison.
"Not only is this a public safety issue, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the rigorous clinical and coursework required to maintain their professional licenses and employment," said Markenzy Lapointe, the Southern District Attorney of Florida, who added, "a fraud scheme like this undermines public confidence in our healthcare system."
Unfortunately, crimes like this happen again and again in this area.
"Healthcare fraud is nothing new in South Florida, as many scammers see it as an easy, albeit illegal, way to make money," said Chad Yarbrough, deputy special agent at the FBI Miami. “What is troubling about this investigation is that there are more than 7,600 people across the country with fraudulent nursing credentials who are in potentially critical health roles in treating patients. Without the diligence and hard work of investigators in this case, the extent of this fraud might not have been uncovered.”
Fees serve the purpose of a nursing certificate, which is intended to protect the general public from harm by establishing minimum qualifications and competencies.
"The alleged sale and purchase of nursing degrees and credentials to willing but unqualified individuals is a crime that potentially endangers the health and safety of patients and offends the honorable profession of nursing," said Special Representative Omar Pérez Aybar of the Department of Health and Human Services , Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). "In coordination with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG continues to aggressively investigate bad actors who openly disregard the well-being of others for fraudulent gain."
Fees related to fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcriptsUniversity of Siena.
EUA v. Witherspoon, et al. Reference: 23-60005-Cr-Smith
EUA v. Sanon, file number: 23-60013-Cr-Moreno
Billing documents describe Siena College as a Broward County school licensed by the Florida Commission on Independent Education and the Florida Board of Nursing to offer a practical nursing program and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing RN Program. EunideSanon administered Siena College.
The indictment is indicting defendants Stanton Witherspoon of Burlington County N.J. on; Alfred Sellu of Burlington County, New Jersey; and Rene Bernadel of Westchester County, N.Y. for conspiracy to commit and commit wire fraud. The prosecution alleges that Witherspoon, Sellu and Bernadel solicited and recruited individuals seeking a Nursing Card for employment as an RN or LPN/VN. These defendants are said to have worked with Sanon, who ran Siena College and is accused of wire fraud conspiracy information, to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and certificates. These false documents showed that the aspiring RN and LPN/VN applicants attended the nursing program at Siena College in Broward County and completed the necessary courses and clinical exams to receive the RN or LPN/VN degrees. In fact, prospective nurses never completed the required courses and clinics.
Information against Sanon alleges that he and others sold thousands of fake Siena College nursing degrees and training certificates to nursing candidates, which they used to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and grant nursing positions to healthcare volunteers across the country receive.
Charges related to fraudulent Palm Beach School of Nursing nursing records and diplomas.
UNS. v. Russ, et al., Case No.: 23-60007-Cr-Singhal
According to billing records, the purpose of the Palm Beach School of Nursing was to prepare students to meet Florida licensure and nursing requirements and become eligible to sit the national licensure exam to work as a registered nurse.
Prosecutors are charging Broward County resident Gail Russ; Cheryl Stanley of Collier County, Florida; Krystal Lopez of Palm Beach County; Ricky Riley of Broward County; Norberto Lopez of Palm Beach County; Damian Lopez of Palm Beach County; Francois Legagneur of Nassau County, New York; Reynoso Silk from Union County, New Jersey; Cassandre Jean of Palm Beach County; Yelva Saint Preux of Suffolk County, New York; Evangeline Naissant of Nassau County, New York; Rony Michel of Monmouth County, New Jersey; Vilaire Duroseau of Essex County, New Jersey; and Yvrose Thermitus, also known as "Yvrose Thompson," of Union County, N.J., on conspiracy to commit and commit wire fraud. The indictment alleges that these defendants recruited and recruited individuals seeking a nursing license in order to obtain employment as an RN or LPN/VN.
It is alleged that these recruiting defendants then conspired with Palm Beach School of Nursing owner Johanah Napoleon and school officials Gail Russ, Cheryl Stanley, Krystal Lopez and Ricky Riley to create false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts and that represent that the aspiring RN and LPN/VN applicants have attended the Palm Beach School of Nursing and completed the required courses and clinical exams to earn the RN or LPN/VN degrees. In fact, prospective nurses never completed the required courses and clinics.
Nursing candidates used the fake diplomas and credentials they purchased from the Palm Beach School of Nursing owner and staff to obtain multi-state RN or LPN/VN licenses and nursing jobs with involuntary healthcare providers across the country. Napoleon was previously charged with information and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health fraud and wire fraud and wire fraud (cases #22-60111-Cr-Smith and 22-60118-Cr-Smith).
Fees related to fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcriptsInternational Institute of the Sacred Heart
USA v. Jean, et al., case number: 23-60010-Cr-Smith
United States v. Etienne, case no.: 23-60012-Cr-Singhal
According to accounting documents, Sacred Heart International Institute was a Florida Board of Nursing-licensed school in Broward County that offered a nursing program aimed at preparing students for employment as practical nurses.
The prosecution alleges Ludnie Jean of Harris County, Texas; Serge Jean of Harris County, Texas; Simon Itaman of Harris County, Texas; Anna Itaman of Harris County, Texas; Rhomy Louis of Suffolk County, New York; and Nadege Auguste of Broward County for conspiracy and wire fraud. These defendants are accused of soliciting and soliciting individuals seeking nursing credentials in order to obtain employment as LPN/VN. These recruiters then colluded with Charles Etienne, owner of Sacred Heart, to create and distribute false and fraudulent credentials and diplomas showing that aspiring candidates attended Sacred Heart and completed the necessary courses and clinical exams to earn the LPN/VN to obtain degrees. In fact, prospective nurses never completed the required courses and clinics. Etienne is accused of conspiracy to wire fraud.
Nursing candidates used the fake degrees and credentials they purchased from Sacred Heart to obtain multi-state LPN/VN licenses and nursing jobs with involuntary healthcare providers across the country.
US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe; Deputy Special Agent Chad Yarbrough, FBI, Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Omar Perez Aybar, HHS-OIG, made the announcement.
FBI Miami and HHS-OIG Miami investigated these cases. Valuable assistance was provided by Homeland Security Investigations, Miami Field Office; US Department of Veterans Affairs - Office of the Inspector General; United States Postal Inspection, Miami; and Attorney General of the Florida-Florida Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Mid-Atlantic Field Office. Assistant US Attorney Christopher J. Clark is prosecuting this case and Assistant US Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling the forfeiture. This case is being pursued in connection with a related criminal matter in the County of Maryland.
For court documents and related information, visit the District Court for the Southern District of Florida's website atwww.flsd.uscourts.govor inhttp://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov
Click here to access billing records.
What happened to palm beach school of nursing? ›
The school was licensed with the Florida Board of Nursing but it was terminated in 2017 due to low passing rates on the state certification exam. When it was dissolved in 2020, the address w 1110 Sixth Ave. S. in Lake Worth Beach.Which nursing School in Florida is under investigation? ›
The Department of Justice said Wednesday that the schools, now closed, allegedly issued more than 7,600 fake and unearned nursing diplomas. The schools involved in the alleged scheme include Siena College, Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute.What is the hardest class in nursing school? ›
- Pathophysiology. In this course, students learn how different anatomical systems work and how diseases or injuries affect these systems. ...
- Pharmacology. ...
- Medical Surgical 1 (also known as Adult Health 1) ...
- Evidence-Based Practice.
However, LPN job opportunities will continue to dwindle over time, as more and more nursing positions shift to require candidates with advanced degrees. In fact, the majority of hospitals in the U.S. already prefer to hire RNs over LPNs.Which state is the hardest to become a nurse? ›
- OHIO. Surprised California doesn't top the list? ...
- CALIFORNIA. Ah, California—a bucket-list destination for many travel nurses. ...
- MARYLAND. ...
- MAINE. ...
- ALASKA. ...
- Georgia. ...
- Alabama. ...
Nursing Program Disqualifying Factors
Major misdemeanor conviction for crimes involving weapons, violence, embezzlement, dishonesty, misappropriation, fraud or sex crimes. Any felony conviction. More than one drunk driving or related conviction in the past three years. Registered sex offender.
- #1 Connecticut. ...
- #2 Montana. ...
- #3 New York. ...
- #4 Northern Mariana Islands. ...
- #5 South Dakota.
- Clinic Nurse. ...
- Traveling Nurse. ...
- School Nurse. ...
- Summer Camp Nurse. Average Annual Salary: N/A. ...
- Nurse Administrator. Average Annual Salary: $68,000. ...
- Public Health Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $56,000. ...
- Researcher Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $62,000. ...
- Home Health Nurse. Average Annual Salary: $64,000.
- Social Sciences (Intro Psychology, Sociology, etc.)
- Intro to Speech (or Communication)
- English Composition.
- Using Information Technology.
- Long-term care nurse. ...
- Nurse administrator. ...
- Clinical research nurse. ...
- School or summer camp nurse. ...
- Clinic nurse. ...
- Nurse informatics. ...
- Lactation consultant nurse. ...
- Telehealth nurse.
Why did hospitals stop using LPNs? ›
LPNs have been phased out of hospitals because of research that shows a BSN-prepared nurse results in better outcomes. Allegheny Health Network turned to LPNs to help fill nurse staffing gaps by creating blended teams. Units with the blended nursing model have reduced patients' length of stay.What is the highest LVN salary? ›
Best-Paying States for LPNs and LVNs
The states and districts that pay Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses the highest mean salary are California ($65,140), Alaska ($63,650), Washington ($63,250), Massachusetts ($61,820), and Nevada ($60,490).
Licensed practical nurses are licensed and trained to care for stable patients like those in nursing homes and other facilities that care for less complicated patients. Because LPNs are not liscensed or trained to care for acute unstable patients hospitals do not generally hire them.Is Palm Beach School of Nursing under investigation? ›
The accredited nursing schools under investigation for allegedly issuing thousands of fake nursing diplomas worth over $100 million (roughly $15,000 per diploma) are based in Florida: Siena College in Broward County, Fla., Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute ...Why are nursing students dropping out? ›
The most recurrent themes regarding the reasons behind BSN drop-out were: understanding that they were not suited to be nurses, perception of missing/lack of psychological, physical and practical resources needed to successfully cope with both nursing school and the nursing profession, inconsistencies between the image ...Can school nurses get loan forgiveness? ›
Nurses must be employed full time to qualify for cancellation, and loans will be forgiven incrementally over five years. You must apply either through the school that disbursed the Perkins loans to you or through your loan servicer.Is Azure College under investigation? ›
Update As of August 19, 2022
Azure College remains accredited during the arbitration process. ABHES also has directed Azure College to submit a Teachout Plan.
Prohibited acts. An LPN may not perform the following IV therapy functions: (1) Initiate administration of blood, blood components and plasma volume expanders. (2) Administer tissue plasminogen activators, immunoglobulins, antineoplastic agents or investigational drugs.What is the lowest GPA for nursing school? ›
Most programs require at least a 2.5 GPA or higher. Some set their limit at a 3.0 GPA. This is important to find out during the research phase of your accelerated nursing program search.What disqualifies you from being a nurse in Florida? ›
Criminal Records That Can Make a Person Ineligible to Be a Nurse in Florida. Florida Statute section 464.018 lists a number of offenses that will constitute grounds for denial of your nursing license. These include convictions such as robbery, child abuse, possession of a controlled substance and domestic violence.
Which state has the highest nursing shortage? ›
California has the worst nursing shortage in the United States. It's predicted that by 2030, California will be in need of over 44,000 nurses. Other states with major hospital staff shortages include New Mexico, Vermont, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Arizona.What percentage of nurses quit in the first year? ›
More specifically, over 17% quit within the first year, and a whopping 56% quit after the first two years. This issue has also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, as 95% of nurses have reported feeling burnt out within the past three years.What percentage of new nurses quit? ›
But, one study found that a staggering 17% - 30% of new nurses leave their job within the first year and up to 56% leaving within the second year.How do nurses get federal loans forgiven? ›
Registered nurses who work at least 32 hours a week at a qualified facility can get 60% of their student loans paid off over two years of employment. Borrowers have the option of getting an additional 25% of their loans paid off by the Nurse Corps program for a third year. Applications are only accepted once a year.How long does it take to pay off nursing school debt? ›
Experts expect students who graduated in 2021 to pay off their student loans between 8-19 years while paying $669 per month. Ultimately, how long it takes to pay off nursing school loans depends on the amount of money borrowed, the interest rate, and repayment habits.How much debt is the average nursing student in? ›
Nursing Student Loan Debt for BSNs
The average cost of a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is between $8,000 and $55,000. The average student loan debt for a BSN is $23,711.
Students who saw University of Phoenix advertising may have been falsely persuaded that by choosing the for-profit university for their education, they may be offered jobs by these employers upon graduation.Is University of Phoenix a credible college? ›
Yes, University of Phoenix is legit. It might be a different type of institution in its approach to providing access to education and resources, but University of Phoenix is accredited and legitimate. When it comes down to it, these factors make the University a valid educational path for many adult learners.Is CIA a good college? ›
The Culinary Institute of America Reviews
There is a reason that the CIA is one of the best culinary schools in America. One of those reasons are because of how much experience you get from the qualified teachers who work there. There are many kitchen classes that teach you a variety of techniques.