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Author Topic: Fraudulent nursing diploma sellers indicted  (Read 673 times)

Krik

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Fraudulent nursing diploma sellers indicted
« on: January 31, 2023, 01:25:51 PM »

[*quote*]
Consumer Health Digest #23-05
January 29, 2023

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Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H.
http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/william-m-london
, with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D
https://www.quackwatch.org/10Bio/bio.html
., It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; other news items; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; research tips; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. The Digest’s primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips. Items posted to this archive may be updated when relevant information becomes available. To subscribe, cli
https://lists.quackwatch.org/mailman/listinfo/chd_lists.quackwatch.org
k here
https://lists.quackwatch.org/mailman/listinfo/chd_lists.quackwatch.org

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[...]

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Fraudulent nursing diploma sellers indicted

Twenty-five people have been accused of participating in a wire-fraud scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses and poses serious danger to patients who are exposed to care from untrained nurses. Three recently unsealed indictments returned by a South Florida federal grand jury and two informations filed by federal prosecutors charge that the defendants engaged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs). The bogus documents enabled purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs as RNs and LPN/VNs. The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County. These schools are now closed. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.

[Fraudulent nursing diploma scheme leads to federal charges against 25 defendants
https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/fraudulent-nursing-diploma-scheme-leads-federal-charges-against-25-defendants
. U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida news release, Jan 25, 2023]
 The charging documents are summarized at Credential Watch.

[Barrett S. Twenty-five people charged in fraudulent nursing credential scheme
https://quackwatch.org/credential/twenty-five-people-charged-in-fraudulent-nursing-credential-scheme/
. Credential Watch, Jan 27, 2023]
 In November 2022, the Delaware Board of Nursing sent annulment letters to 26 people who had used fake credentials to obtain a license
[Delaware Nurses Association statement on fraudulent nursing degree schemes
https://denurses.wildapricot.org/resources/Documents/PressRoom/2023.01.26.PressRelease.StatementOnFraudulentNursingDegreeScheme.pdf
. Delaware Nurses Association press release, Jan 26, 2023]

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[...]

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Stephen Barrett, M.D.
Consumer Advocate
7 Birchtree Circle
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

Telephone: (919) 533-6009

http://www.quackwatch.org (health fraud and quackery)
[*/quote*]
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Krik

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Re: Fraudulent nursing diploma sellers indicted
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2023, 01:32:05 PM »

https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/fraudulent-nursing-diploma-scheme-leads-federal-charges-against-25-defendants

[*quote*]
U.S. Attorneys » Southern District of Florida » News
Share
Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Fraudulent Nursing Diploma Scheme Leads to Federal Charges Against 25 Defendants

MIAMI – More than two dozen individuals have been charged in the Southern District of Florida for their alleged participation in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses. 

According to three recently unsealed indictments returned by a South Florida federal grand jury and two informations filed by federal prosecutors, defendants engaged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical/vocational nurses (LPN/VNs).

The bogus diplomas and transcripts qualified purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPN/VNs.  The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College in Broward County, Fla., Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County. These schools are now closed.

Each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.

“Not only is this a public safety concern, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe, who added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”

Crimes such as these unfortunately continue to spring up, especially in this area. 

 “Health care fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy, though illegal, money, “said acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough, FBI Miami. “What is disturbing about this investigation is that there are over 7,600 people around the country with fraudulent nursing credentials who are potentially in critical health care roles treating patients. Were it not for the diligence and hard work of the investigators on this case, the extent of this fraud may not have been discovered.”

The charges speak to the purpose of a nursing license which is to protect the public from harm by setting minimum qualifications and competencies.

“The alleged selling and purchasing of nursing diplomas and transcripts to willing but unqualified individuals is a crime that potentially endangers the health and safety of patients and insults the honorable profession of nursing,” said Special Agent in Charge Omar Pérez Aybar of Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG continues to aggressively investigate bad actors who so brazenly disregard the well-being of others in order to enrich themselves fraudulently.”                           

Charges Related to Fraudulent Nursing Diplomas and Transcripts from Siena College.

U.S. v. Witherspoon, et al., case no.: 23-60005-Cr-Smith

U.S. v. Sanon, case no.: 23-60013-Cr-Moreno

The charging documents describe Siena College as a Broward County school licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education and the Florida Board of Nursing that offers a Practical Nursing Program and an RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program. Eunide Sanon managed Siena College.

The indictment charges defendants Stanton Witherspoon of Burlington County N.J.; Alfred Sellu of Burlington County N.J.; and Rene Bernadel of Westchester County, N.Y. with conspiring to commit and committing wire fraud. The indictment alleges that Witherspoon, Sellu, and Bernadel solicited and recruited individuals who sought nursing credentials to gain employment as an RN or LPN/VN. It is alleged that these defendants arranged with Sanon, who managed Siena College and is charged by information with wire fraud conspiracy, to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts. These fake documents represented that the aspiring RN and LPN/VN candidates had attended Siena College’s nursing program in Broward County and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain RN or LPN/VN diplomas. In fact, the aspiring nurses never completed the necessary courses and clinicals.

The information against Sanon alleges that he and others sold thousands of fake Siena College nursing diplomas and educational transcripts to nursing applicants who used them to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and nursing jobs with unwitting health care providers throughout the country.

Charges Related to Fraudulent Nursing Diplomas and Transcripts from Palm Beach School of Nursing.

U.S. v. Russ, et al., case no.: 23-60007-Cr-Singhal

According to the charging documents, Palm Beach School of Nursing’s objective was to prepare students to meet Florida’s licensing and nursing board requirements and become eligible to take the national licensing exam in order to work as registered nurses.

The indictment charges Gail Russ of Broward County; Cheryl Stanley of Collier County, Fla.; 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, N.Y.; Reynoso Seide of Union County, N.J.; Cassandre Jean of Palm Beach County; Yelva Saint Preux of Suffolk County, N.Y.; Evangeline Naissant of Nassau County, N.Y.; Rony Michel of Monmouth County, N.J.; Vilaire Duroseau of Essex County, N.J.; and Yvrose Thermitus, a/k/a “Yvrose Thompson,” of Union County, N.J., with conspiring to commit, and committing, wire fraud. The indictment alleges that these defendants solicited and recruited individuals who sought nursing credentials to gain employment as an RN or LPN/VN.

It is alleged that these recruiter defendants then arranged with Palm Beach School of Nursing’s owner Johanah Napoleon and school employees Gail Russ, Cheryl Stanley, Krystal Lopez, and Ricky Riley to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts representing that the aspiring RN and LPN/VN candidates had attended Palm Beach School of Nursing and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain RN or LPN/VN diplomas. In fact, the aspiring nurses never completed the necessary courses and clinicals.

The nursing applicants used the fake diplomas and transcripts they purchased from the owner and employees of Palm Beach School of Nursing to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and nursing jobs with unwitting health care providers throughout the country. Napoleon was previously charged by information and has pled guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as wire fraud (case nos. 22-60111-Cr-Smith and 22-60118-Cr-Smith).

Charges Related to Fraudulent Nursing Diplomas and Transcripts from Sacred Heart International Institute

U.S. v. Jean, et al., case no.: 23-60010-Cr-Smith

U.S. v. Etienne, case no.: 23-60012-Cr-Singhal

 

According to charging documents, Sacred Heart International Institute was a Broward County School licensed by the Florida Board of Nursing that offered a nursing program designed to prepare students for employment as practical nurses. 

The indictment charges 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, N.Y.; and Nadege Auguste of Broward County with conspiring to and committing wire fraud. It is alleged that these defendants solicited and recruited individuals who sought nursing credentials to gain employment as an LPN/VN. These recruiters then arranged with Charles Etienne, Sacred Heart’s owner, to create and distribute false and fraudulent transcripts and diplomas representing that the aspiring candidates had attended Sacred Heart and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain LPN/VN diplomas. In fact, the aspiring nurses never completed the necessary courses and clinicals. Etienne is charged by information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. 

The nursing candidates used the fake diplomas and transcripts they purchased from Sacred Heart to obtain LPN/VN licenses in various states and nursing jobs with unwitting health care providers throughout the country.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe; acting Special Agent in Charge 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; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-Office of Inspector General; United States Postal Inspection Service, Miami; and Florida Attorney General-Florida Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Mid-Atlantic Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Clark is prosecuting this case and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling asset forfeiture. This case is being prosecuted in conjunction with a related criminal matter in the District of Maryland.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov

Click here to access charging documents.

23-CR-60005

23-CR-60007

23-CR-60010

23-CR-60012

23-CR-60013
Topic(s):
Health Care Fraud
Component(s):
USAO - Florida, Southern
Contact:
Public Affairs Unit
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Florida
USAFLS.News@usdoj.gov
Updated January 30, 2023
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Krik

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Re: Fraudulent nursing diploma sellers indicted
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2023, 01:40:16 PM »

https://denurses.wildapricot.org/resources/Documents/PressRoom/2023.01.26.PressRelease.StatementOnFraudulentNursingDegreeScheme.pdf

[*quote*]
PRESS R ELEASE
Stephanie McClellan, MBA, MSN, RN, CMSRN, NE-BC
President
Christopher E. Otto, MSN, RN, PCCN, CCRN
Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
302-733-5880
contactdna@denurses.org

Delaware Nurses Association Statement on Fraudulent Nursing Degree Schemes

NEWARK, DE – January 26, 2023 – The Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office of Southern District of Florida announced yesterday, that 25 defendants were charged in a scheme to sell and obtain fraudulent nursing degrees for the purpose of obtaining a license and practicing as a nurse. Furthermore, as Delaware has been named in filings, we suspect that numerous of these potential licensees are affiliated with Delaware, and defendants may have obtained a license and/or have been potentially practicing in Delaware.

Public meeting records from the Delaware Division of Professional Regulation identify that, in a closed session of the Delaware Board of Nursing in November 2022, 26 licensees were sent annulment letters.

Philadelphia news station 6abc/WPVI is reporting that a Delaware-based company, Nursing Education Resource Center LLC., employed one of the defendants charged in this case.

Delaware Nurses Association (DNA) President Stephanie McClellan, MBA, MSN, RN, CMSRN, NE-BC, stated, “We are deeply unsettled by this egregious act. We want all Delaware nurses to be aware of this active issue and to speak up if there is a concern regarding capacity to practice safely by a colleague/peer. This act is not a representation of our code of ethics and standards of practice nor our commitment to patients and our community.”

Special Agent, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Omar Pérez Aybar stated in a press conference, “To date, we have not learned of, nor uncovered, any evidence of patient harm stemming from these individuals potentially providing services to patients.”

For over two decades, the public has rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as the highest among all evaluated professionals, including medical doctors, pharmacists, teachers, police officers, judges and more.

DNA’s Executive Director, Christopher E. Otto, MSN, RN, PCCN, CCRN, stated, “This unparalleled act of fraud and deceit does not reflect the integrity of our profession. The public should be reassured that longstanding safeguards alerted regulators to these cases, and resultant actions have already been completed. It is this safety infrastructure embedded within our profession that protects the public, and maintains the high integrity standards of nursing. Increased awareness and continued action are key to the ongoing mitigation of these cases.Nurse regulators, educators and leaders across the nation and in Delaware have and continue to respond to these ongoing cases promptly and thoroughly. DNA commends the Delaware Board of Nursing and others for their prompt and swift actions to continue protecting our communities.”

Delaware nurses are encouraged to contact the Delaware Board of Nursing, 302-744-4500 or customerservice.dpr@delaware.gov, with any concerns about a colleague’s ability to practice safely and competently. Through both state regulations and professional code of ethics, nurses are obligated to protect patients when practice appears to be impaired.

ABOUT THE DELAWARE NURSES ASSOCIATION

Found in 1911, DNA is the premier leading professional association bringing together, and advancing the profession of nursing for over 100 years, creating healthier communities for all Delawareans. We are the only professional association in Delaware representing all Licensed Practical Nurses, Registered Nurses, and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses. We continue to advance health through the art and science of nursing supported by diverse members, advocacy, influence, professional development, generation of new knowledge, communication, service, and history.
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