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Jury convicts 3 for peddling phony nursing diplomas

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U.S. Department of Justice announces pleas or convictions for 27 people involved in scheme.

physician stethoscope gavel: © megaflopp - stock.adobe.com

© megaflopp - stock.adobe.com

A jury convicted three people of wire fraud for peddling phony nursing diplomas to would-be clinicians around the country.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced the result of a three-week trial of three of 27 defendants who sold fraudulent nursing degrees and transcripts through two private nursing schools that at one time were approved to issue the documents.

The overall scheme involved distribution of more than 7,600 bogus diplomas to people seeking jobs as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or vocational nurses, according to DOJ. The school records resulted in purchasers being eligible to sit for national nursing board exams and, if they passed, to obtain licenses and jobs as nurses with health care providers across the country.

DOJ said the defendants at trial were Gail Russ, registrar of the Palm Beach School of Nursing in Lake Worth, Florida; Cassandre Jean, owner and operator of Success Nursing Review of Brooklyn, New York; and Vilaire Duroseau, owner and operator of the Center for Advance Training and Studies in West Orange, New Jersey. The jury convicted them of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The Palm Beach School of Nursing and the Quisqueya School of Nursing LLC “are now closed due to the excessive failure rates of their students taking the state nursing board exam,” DOJ said in its news release.

With the jury trial, a total of 27 defendants were charged and convicted this year for participating in the scheme. DOJ had assistance from several agencies and federal agents dubbed the investigation “Operation Nightingale” to honor the historic figure Florence Nightingale, who is widely acknowledged as the founder of modern nursing.

DOJ announced the investigation in January 2023, the start of a year when polls of Medical Economics readers and members of other medical organizations predicted staffing concerns, including availability of nurses, would be among the top challenges of the year.

In the 2023 Medical Economics’ 94th Physician Report, doctors said lack of staffing was No. 5 on the list of top 10 issues facing them, based on data from 2022. Meanwhile, nurses have called for improvements for their daily working conditions, including more staff to cover duties with patients.

In the scam, was unclear if the nurses with fake diplomas worked directly in primary care. DOJ records indicated health care providers that hired them included a hospital in Georgia, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers in Maryland and New York, skilled nursing care facilities in Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Texas, a rehabilitation facility in New York, an assisted living facility in New Jersey, and home health facilities in Massachusetts and Texas.

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