Florida nursing school operators plead guilty to selling fake diplomas to thousands of students

Two nursing college operators in the Fort Lauderdale spot have fessed up to peddling pretend diplomas to 1000’s of pupils who could then keep away from completing a rigorous program right before having licensing exams in what prosecutors say was a multimillion-greenback racket stretching from South Florida to New York.

Charles Etienne, 60, president of Sacred Coronary heart International Institute in Fort Lauderdale, and Eunide Sanon, 60, proprietor of Siena Faculty of Wellbeing in Lauderhill, respectively pleaded responsible on Tuesday and previous thirty day period to a conspiracy to dedicate mail and wire fraud in federal court docket.

Both face up to 20 a long time in jail but are expected to receive much considerably less time for accepting accountability early on, in accordance to their attorneys, Tama Kudman and Mark Lowry. As element of their sentencing, Sanon should convert in excess of far more than $1 million and Etienne about $200,000 to the U.S. governing administration.

In accordance to a person case, Sanon collaborated with company associates in Broward County to promote about 2,016 “false and fraudulent diplomas and educational transcripts to” students that “falsely represented” they “had completed the necessary programs and/or medical coaching to get hold of nursing degrees from Siena.”

In accordance to another scenario, Etienne collaborated with individuals associates in Broward to sell about 588 “false and fraudulent diplomas and instructional transcripts” below the exact same circumstances at Sacred Coronary heart.

In January, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Place of work in Miami rattled the health care field when they unveiled these two instances in addition to three other indictments charging 23 other persons who had ownership pursuits, worked as staff or performed the roles of recruiters for the two nursing colleges as perfectly as a third system, Palm Beach University of Nursing.

The community of nursing university operators, centered in South Florida, illegally billed just about every pupil concerning $10,000 for a certified functional nurse degree and $17,000 for a registered nurse diploma — without having demanding suitable teaching, according to federal authorities and courtroom data.

The scofflaw educational institutions presented a “shortcut” for students to stay away from getting a just about two-yr nursing program requiring clinical do the job, countrywide exams and certification, although instructors coached them on taking the licensing examinations to apply nursing in a range of states, authorities said.

An believed 7,600 pupils paid a overall of $114 million for phony nursing degrees from the South Florida educational institutions and other suspect plans concerning 2016 and 2021. Of these, just one-third, or about 2,400 college students, ended up passing their licensing exams, predominantly in New York, which imposes no limit on the selection of times that college students can consider the test. Nurses accredited in New York have the capacity to follow in other states, like Florida.

Now, people students who handed the nursing tests may well get rid of their certification — while they will not be criminally billed, in accordance to federal authorities. The FBI said it has notified nursing boards in all 50 states of each and every student who acquired a pretend nursing degree and passed the examination.

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Well being and Human Expert services-Business of Inspector General in Miami, stated that, inspite of obvious public concern, the investigation has discovered no hurt brought on by any suspect nurses to sufferers so significantly.

The investigation, aptly dubbed Operation Nightingale, began in 2019 with a suggestion from Maryland that led to an FBI undercover procedure that initially qualified two Fort Lauderdale enterprise people, Geralda Adrien and Woosvelt Predestin, who both of those pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to dedicate mail and wire fraud. They cooperated with authorities and were being sentenced to additional than two many years and 3 months in jail in 2022.

Adrien owned two private education and learning firms, Docu-Flex & Additional and PowerfulU Health and fitness Treatment Expert services, where by Predestin was an worker. Alongside one another they schemed with Siena University of Wellbeing in Lauderhill, Sacred Heart Global Institute in Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach front University of Nursing in Lake Worthy of “to offer fraudulent diplomas and university transcripts,” in accordance to court data.

Also to begin with targeted: The Palm Seaside University of Nursing’s president, Johanah Napoleon of West Palm Seaside, who pleaded guilty to the exact same conspiracy cost, cooperated with authorities and faces sentencing next Tuesday.

All three defendants arrived at plea agreements with Assistant U.S. Legal professional Christopher Clark and helped investigators develop the even bigger scenario, resulting in about 25 arrests in January. More arrests are anticipated in the coming months, authorities reported.