Georgia asks 22 nurses to surrender licenses amid degree scheme probe

Twenty-two Georgia nurses who allegedly purchased fraudulent degree documents through a recently uncovered scheme have been asked to surrender their licenses, according to ABC affiliate WSB-TV. 

The scheme involved selling more than 7,600 fraudulent diplomas and transcripts from three now-shuttered nursing schools in Florida to the aspiring nurses. Aspiring nurses paid between $10,000 and $15,000 for fake nursing degrees and transcripts, which allowed them to qualify for the National Council Licensure Examination without completing the required coursework. About 37 percent of those who bought fake documents passed the test, and a "significant number" went on to gain licensure and secure employment at U.S. healthcare facilities, Omar Pérez Aybar, special agent in charge of the Miami region of HHS' Office of Inspector General, told The New York Times Jan. 27.  

The Georgia Board of Nursing sent letters to the nurses Jan. 17, asking them to voluntarily surrender their nursing licenses within 30 days. As of Jan. 30, none have, according to the report. Authorities in Georgia are working with the FBI to gather the evidence required to revoke the nurses' licenses if they refuse to surrender them. 

WSB-TV confirmed that three of the nurses worked at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Atlanta. 

"Within days of learning of this nationwide scheme, we removed three nurses from patient care at the Atlanta VA Medical Center," VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes told the news station. "Their removal is very unfortunate but patient safety is and must be our primary responsibility at VA."

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing and its state regulatory bodies have been working closely with state and federal authorities to identify and monitor individuals across the country who allegedly purchased the fake nursing degrees. Last week, the Delaware Board of Nursing said it annulled the nursing licenses of 26 individuals tied to the scheme.

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