Two nursing school professionals in Florida have pleaded guilty to selling thousands of fraudulent diplomas to students, The Miami Herald reported.
Charles Etienne, 60, president of Sacred Heart International Institute in Fort Lauderdale, and Eunide Sanon, 60, owner of Siena College of Health in Lauderhill, engaged in what prosecutors say was a multimillion-dollar scheme that spanned from South Florida to New York.
According to court documents, the system offered students an “employment shortcut” by allowing them to bypass necessary requirements such as hours of clinical work and passing national exams.
Etienne and Sanon are just two of 25 defendants facing federal charges in South Florida for the fraudulent diploma scheme.
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“Health care fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy, though illegal, money,” said special agent Chad Yarbrough, FBI Miami, in a statement. “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 network of nursing operators facing legal ramifications allegedly charged students between $10,000 and $17,000 for a registered nursing (RN) diploma.
Both Etienne and Sanon face up to 20 years in prison and $150,000 and $1.2 million, respectively, in fines as part of their sentencing.
According to court documents, between 2016 and 2021, about 7,600 students paid a total of $114 million in false degrees. Students who obtained degrees illegally may lose their certification, but will not be criminally charged, according to authorities, per The Miami Herald.
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