Earlier this week, 22 nurses in Georgia were asked to surrender their licenses within 30 days after they passed the National Council Licensure Examination under false pretenses. Officials allege they obtained their degrees illegally through a scheme in Southern Florida designed to sell fake nursing degrees to aspiring providers. So far, 25 individuals have been charged for their alleged participation in what’s known as “Operation Nightingale.”
The defendants, arrested in FL, allegedly sold 7,600 fake degrees to nurses all over the country, with at least 22 of them in the Peach State. The Georgia Nursing Board says it is working with the FBI to gather evidence that can be used to compel the 22 nurses with fake degrees and transcripts to surrender their licenses, considering they lack the proper training and credentials.
But now at least five of the nurses in question are fighting back. Hannah Williams, a legal representative for the nurses, said their degrees are legitimate and that they shouldn’t be made to surrender their licenses. Williams continues to maintain her clients’ innocence despite the ongoing investigation.
“My clients maintain that they are legitimate,” Williams said.
But federal officials say these individuals purchased fake degrees for as much as $15,000 instead of going to class and doing the work required to become a nurse.
The fake degrees came from three accredited now-closed nursing schools in Southern Florida. Williams, who is a nurse herself, said not everyone with a degree from those schools participated in the scheme.
She insisted her clients earned their degrees by going to class, not sending money to scam artists.
“Look, nobody wants a fraudulent nurse taking care of them or their loved ones. However, in this case what we have are allegations and an investigation. We have to allow that process to play out before we rush to judgment,” Williams said.
None of the 22 nurses in Georgia surrendered their licenses by the imposed deadline.
“It’s concerning and alarming,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. “Our job is to make sure that our people in Georgia, our patients know they have credentialed nurses that are practicing there.”
At least three of the nurses with fake degrees were working at a veteran’s hospital in the state, but they have since been removed from their roles.
“The fact of the matter is the nursing candidates had done no work for these diplomas,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe.
The authorities say they are doing everything they can to compel the nurses to surrender their licenses by combing through thousands of transcripts. But Williams said her clients are anxious to clear their names.
“There’s been no determination of wrongdoing by any type of judicial body. So, to rush to judgment and start firing nurses just because they went to an accredited school that’s been implicated in criminal activity is just wrong,” Williams argued.