A Liberian media mogul is among 25 people arrested by federal authorities in Florida for participating in a wire fraud scheme to sell nearly 8,000 fake nursing diplomas.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged Stanton Witherspoon in a wire fraud scheme that provided fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts to aspiring nurses for $10,000+ each.
Unsealed federal grand jury indictments allege the 25 defendants took part in a scheme that sold more than 7,600 fraudulent nursing degree diplomas.
The feds say the scheme provided an illegal shortcut for aspiring nurses to get licensed and find employment in hospitals.
Witherspoon and 24 other individuals were charged in the Southern District of Florida with conspiring to commit and committing wire fraud.
Witherspoon is the owner of Liberia’s largest private media network, Spoon Communications Network.
Some of the aspiring nurses were from South Florida’s Haitian-American community. Some of the nurses held legitimate LPN licenses but they wanted a shortcut to become registered nurses, the Miami Herald reported.
The fake diplomas were sold through three Florida nursing schools that are now closed: Siena College in Broward County, Fla., Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Fla., and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County.
“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.
Lapointe added that “a fraud scheme like this erodes public trust in our health care system.”
Federal officials said the fraudulent nurses could lose their nursing licenses and jobs but they likely won’t be criminally charged.