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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on January 25 that 25 defendants have been indicted in Florida for their involvement in the sale of more than 7,600 fraudulent diplomas, and fake transcripts, from three now-closed Florida nursing schools. School officials participated in the scheme, in which aspiring nurses paid $10,000 or more for the fake diplomas.

The sweeping “Operation Nightingale” investigation (named after Florence Nightingale) was a joint effort by DOJ, the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General, with assistance from numerous other federal agencies. The 25 accused, who reside in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Texas, each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

An FBI agent quoted in DOJ’s press release said, “Health care fraud is nothing new to South Florida, as many scammers see this as a way to earn easy, though illegal, money. 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.”

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