Florida’s Commission for Independent Education has ordered 7 active Florida nursing schools to stop enrollments and graduations amid an ongoing federal investigation into fake nursing diploma mills, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.
Justice Department officials said aspiring nurses paid $10,000 to $15,000 for fake diplomas and transcripts to bypass the demanding curriculum and hands-on clinicals at accredited Florida schools.
The seven nursing schools were ordered to cease graduation and enrollment through at least March 31. Of these seven, four have voluntarily ceased all operations for an indefinite period to conduct an internal audit, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education told Becker’s.
The news comes amid reports that the fake nursing diploma scheme is far more wide-ranging than originally believed. The federal government is reportedly investigating nearly a dozen active nursing schools in Florida and around the country.
According to nursejournal.org, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) partnered with law enforcement to execute search warrants across five states:
On Jan. 25, the HHS-OIG announced charges against 25 people affiliated with three now-shuttered Florida nursing schools, including owners and administrators who conspired with a New Jersey man to rake in over $114 million.
Additionally, employees at several nursing exam testing sites were arrested for providing access to the grueling NCLEX RN exam that normally takes 5 hours to complete.
The feds said the scheme involved 7,600 fraudulent nursing diplomas, but the true number of fake nursing diplomas in circulation is believed to be higher.
The New York Times reported that 37 percent of the 7,600 people who illegally obtained nursing diplomas passed the NCLEX national nursing exams.
In Georgia, 22 practicing nurses are accused of allegedly obtaining their degrees from three now-shuttered Florida nursing schools.
On Jan. 17, the Georgia Board of Nursing ordered the nurses to surrender their nursing licenses within 30 days.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said state officials are working with the FBI to revoke the licenses of any accused nurses who won’t surrender the licenses on their own.
It is unclear how many former nurses surrendered their licenses as of the deadline on Feb. 16.