States take action against nurses tied to degree scheme

At least 11 states have taken disciplinary action against nurses who allegedly purchased fraudulent degree documents through a recently uncovered scheme, while investigations are ongoing in others. 

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 many went on to gain licensure and secure employment at U.S. healthcare facilities, according to federal authorities.

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. 

Editor's note: Becker's has reached out to nursing boards in all 50 states and will update this list as more information becomes available. 

States that have taken disciplinary action:

New Jersey has ordered 46 nurses to stop practicing in New Jersey, Attorney General Matthew Platkin said March 9. State officials rescinded the licenses of 20 nurses allegedly involved in the scheme, and nullified the temporary licenses of 26 other nurses administered through its temporary emergency reciprocity licensure program.

The Texas Board of Nursing filed formal charges against 23 nurss for "fraudulently obtaining educational credentials," according to its website. Nurses are permitted to work while these charges are pending. 

New York officials are requesting more than 900 nurses in the state prove their credentials are legitimate or surrender their licenses. The state's department of education has also paused the license applications for 2,352 nursing students until they can prove they've met all necessary requirements.

The South Dakota Board of Nursing suspended the license of a licensed practical nurse in October who allegedly used fake degree documents to receive her license. On Feb. 8, the board waived the suspension, pending the completion of a LPN refresher course. The board also denied licensure for two registered nurse applicants, a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 9.

The Hawaii State Board of Nursing has denied licenses to at least 12 individuals who allegedly submitted fradulent transcripts, a spokesperson confirmed Feb. 7.

The Iowa Board of Nursing has "investigated several potential fraudulent transcripts/degrees and to date [has] revoked two licenses," a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 6.

The Nevada State Board of Nursing has revoked the license of one nurse allegedly involved in the scheme, a spokesperson said Feb. 6. 

The North Dakota Board of Nursing issued an emergency order to suspend the license of one individual who allegedly had fradulent degree documents, a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 7.

Washington state's Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, which oversees nurse licensing, has identified 150 applicants with credentials from the three nursing schools involved in the scheme. Seven individuals have had their licenses rescinded, and 32 are still waiting on a decision from the commission. Four applicants were denied licensure, 30 are still waiting on a licensure decision and another 77 remain under investigation, NBC affiliate KING5 reported Jan. 31.  

The Delaware Board of Nursing has annulled the nursing licenses of 26 individuals, ABC affiliate WPVI reported Jan. 26. It is unclear whether the nurses were actively working in direct patient care roles, and if they were, at what facilities. WPVI said the individuals may appeal the board's decision.

The Georgia Board of Nursing sent letters to 22 nurses Jan. 17, asking them to voluntarily surrender their nursing licenses within 30 days. As of Jan. 30, none had, according to ABC affiliate WSB-TV.  Authorities in Georgia are working with the FBI to gather the evidence required to revoke the nurses' licenses if they refuse to surrender them. 

States that have confirmed ongoing investigations:

The Michigan Bureau of Professional Licensing has initiated administrative action against seven individuals who may have used fraudulent nursing degree documents to either seek or obtain a nursing license in the state. "At this stage, the administrative actions are allegations and have not concluded with final orders substantiating the alleged violations," a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 9.

The Idaho Board of Nursing on Feb. 9 confirmed it's investigating nurses who may be tied to the scheme, but declined to share further details. 

The Alaska Board of Nursing identified three individuals who may have fradulent degrees, a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 8. Two individuals have inactive licenses, and all three are currently under investigation. 

The Missouri State Board of Nursing confirmed an investigation into nurses who may have used fradulent degree documents to gain licensure. "Each individual is afforded due process," a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 6. "We cannot assume that every individual identified in the authorities’ investigations obtained illegitimate educational credentials."

The Ohio Board of Nursing also confirmed an investigation is ongoing as of Feb. 6 and said related details "must remain confidential until the board issues a decision on action."

The Alabama Board of Nursing has identified one nurse in the state who may have obtained a license based on a fradulent transcript. "The ABN is actively addressing this issue, but a final decision of the board has not yet been reached," a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 7.

The Kentucky Board of Nursing has identified one nurse licensed by the state who may be involved in the scheme. As the state's investigation is ongoing, the board declined to share additional details with Becker's. "However, if at any time the KBN has any indication that this individual or any other nurse is a threat to the safety of patients or to the public, it would immediately suspend the nurse’s license," a spokesperson said Jan. 6. 

The Arizona State Board of Nursing has identified about 10 individuals who may be involved with the scheme, the board said in a Jan. 30 news release. The state has not received any reports of patient harm related to the nurses. 

The West Virginia Board of Registered Nurses is investigating an undisclosed number of nurses who may have purchased fraudulent degrees. "As the investigation proceeds, we have flagged the individuals in question in our nationwide data system so any actions involving licensees are carefully monitored by the WVBORN," Board President Tara Hulsey, PhD, MSN, told Becker's Feb. 6.

The South Carolina Board of Nursing identified one individual who may have obtained a nurse license using a fradulent degree and could have practiced in the state between April 2015-18. The individual's license lapsed after not being renewed, a board spokesperson told Becker's Jan. 6.

The Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education told Becker's it has been contacted by federal law enforcement officials about the national investigation, but has not issued disciplinary actions to any nurses tied to the scheme.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health confirmed that it's conductting an investigation of nursing licenses individuals may have received using fradulent nursing documents. 

The North Carolina Board of Nursing told Becker's Jan. 6 it is "actively investigating individuals with alleged illegitimate education credentials." The board declined to share additional details citing the ongoing investigation. 

States reporting no nurses allegedly involved in the scheme:

The Wyoming State Board of Nursing has not identified any nurses tied to the scheme, a spokesperson told Becker's Feb. 3. "The Wyoming State Board of Nursing will continue to monitor for applicants from the named programs and for any fraudulent activity," the board said.

Arkansas has not identified any nurses involved in the scheme, a spokesperson for the state's department of health told Becker's Feb. 6.

Editor's note: This article was most recently updated on March 10.

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