WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) — Twenty-six nurses were informed that their nursing license was canceled as part of a fraudulent nursing diploma scheme uncovered by the Department of Justice.
“All of us feel this is egregious,” said Dr. Pamela Zickafoose, the Executive Director of Delaware’s Board of Nursing.
On Wednesday, the Justice Department released details of what’s been dubbed Operation Nightingale, in honor of Florence Nightingale.
It uncovered a massive, coordinated effort to sell more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas and certificates for more than $100 million.
“When we talk about a nurse’s education, and credentials, shortcut is not a word we want to use,” said Markenzy Lapointe, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Several states were involved in the crackdown including Delaware and New Jersey.
RELATED: Feds announce massive takedown of fraudulent nursing diploma scheme; 2 from South Jersey charged
Twenty-five people face charges, including Stanton Witherspoon and Alfred Sellu of Burlington County, New Jersey.
On Thursday, 6abc went to Witherspoon’s home, but he wasn’t available to talk. When reached by phone he said he had to talk to his lawyer.
News of the scheme shocked leaders of accredited schools like La Salle University.
“So immediately you think, ‘wow, will the public trust us when you hear stories like that?'” said Kathleen Czekanski, the dean of the school of nursing.
She is concerned that unqualified nurses could get jobs without going through the proper training, which could have serious consequences.
“There’s a lot you need to know,” she said. “Safe care is really in jeopardy when you’re not prepared.”
The nurses who had their licenses canceled in Delaware can appeal the decision. Details on that will come out in February, but officials believe the nurses knew what they were doing was fraudulent.
“These people who went to these Florida schools did not complete the curriculum, the clinical training that is required of all nurses to be eligible to be licensed as a nurse,” said Dr. Zickafoose.
The FBI is working with state nursing boards across the country to identify unqualified nurses. 6abc reached out to the boards in Pennsylvania and New Jersey but did not get a response.
Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.