MIAMI. More than two dozen people have been charged in the Southern District of Florida for their alleged involvement in a wire fraud scheme that has created illegal licensing and reduced job opportunities for aspiring nurses.
According to three recently unsealed indictments returned by a South Florida federal grand jury and two filings filed by federal prosecutors, the defendants were involved in a scheme to sell fake diplomas and medical credentials from accredited nursing schools in Florida to license and job seekers. as registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical/professional nurses (LPN/VN).
Fake diplomas and transcripts allowed buyers to take the National Council of Nursing exam and, upon passing it, earn licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPNs/VNs. The overall scheme involved distributing over 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three nursing schools in South Florida: Siena College in Broward County, Florida, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Florida, and Sacred Heart International Institute. in Broward County. These schools are now closed.
Each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.
“This is not only a public safety issue, but also a tarnished reputation for nurses who are actually doing the complex clinical and coursework required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marchenzie Lapointe said. that “a fraud scheme like this undermines public confidence in our healthcare system.”
Such crimes, unfortunately, continue to occur, especially in this area.
“Health care fraud is nothing new in South Florida, as many scammers see it as a way to make easy, albeit illegal, money,” Acting Miami FBI Special Agent Chad Yarbrough said. “What is worrying about this investigation is that there are more than 7,600 people across the country with fake nurse identities potentially playing an important role in healthcare by treating patients. If it were not for the diligence and painstaking work of the investigators in this case, the extent of this fraud might not have been disclosed.”
The fees speak to the purpose of the nursing license, which is to protect the public from harm by establishing minimum qualifications and competencies.
“The alleged sale and purchase of nurses’ diplomas and certificates to voluntary but unqualified individuals is a crime that potentially threatens the health and safety of patients and offends the honorary profession of nursing,” said Special Agent Omar Perez Aibar of the Department of Health and Public Health. Social Services, Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, HHS-OIG continues to actively investigate the perpetrators who so blatantly ignore the welfare of others in order to fraudulently enrich themselves.”
Allegations related to falsification of nursing diplomas and extracts from Siena College.
United States v. Witherspoon et al. Case No: 23-60005-Cr-Smith
USA v. Sanon Case No: 23-60013-Cr-Moreno
The indictment documents describe Siena College as a Broward County school licensed by the Florida Independent Education Commission and the Florida Board of Nursing that offers a practical nursing program and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. Eugene Sanon directed Siena College.
The indictment charges defendants Stanton Witherspoon of Burlington County, New Jersey; Alfred Sellu of Burlington County, New Jersey; and René Bernadel of Westchester County, New York, conspiring to commit wire fraud. The indictment alleges that Witherspoon, Sella and Bernadel solicited and recruited people who were looking for nursing degrees to get a job as an RN or LPN/VN. These defendants are alleged to have made arrangements with Sanon, who ran the Siena College and is allegedly accused of conspiring through electronic communications to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts. These forged documents showed that RN and LPN/VN candidates attended Siena College Nursing in Broward County and completed the required courses and clinical studies to earn RN or LPN/VN degrees. In fact, aspiring nurses never completed the required courses and clinical trials.
The filing against Sanon alleges that he and others sold thousands of fake Siena College Nursing Diplomas and Education Certificates to nursing candidates who used them to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and nurse jobs for unwitting medical providers. services throughout the country.
Allegations related to fake nursing diplomas and transcripts from the Palm Beach Nursing School.
USA v. Russ et al. Case No: 23-60007-Cr-Singhal
According to the indictment documents, the purpose of the Palm Beach School of Nursing was to prepare students to meet Florida’s licensing and nursing council requirements and become eligible to take the national licensing exam to practice as registered nurses.
The indictment charges Gail Russ of Broward County; Cheryl Stanley of Collier County, Florida; Crystal Lopez of Palm Beach County; Ricky Riley of Broward County; Norberto Lopez of Palm Beach County; Damian Lopez of Palm Beach County; François Leganière of Nassau County, New York; Reynoso Seide of Union County, New Jersey; Cassandra Jean of Palm Beach County; Yelva St. Preux of Suffolk County, New York; Evangeline Naissan of Nassau County, New York; Roni Michel of Monmouth County, New Jersey; Wheeler Duroso of Essex County, New Jersey; and Ivrose Termitus, also known as “Ivrose Thompson” of Union County, New Jersey, conspiring to commit and commit wire fraud. The indictment alleges that these defendants extorted and recruited individuals who were seeking nursing degrees to get a job as an RN or LPN/VN.
It is alleged that these recruiting defendants then arranged with Palm Beach Nursing School owner Johana Napoleon and school employees Gail Russ, Cheryl Stanley, Crystal Lopez, and Ricky Riley to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts suggesting RN aspirants and LPN Applicants /VN have attended Palm Beach School of Nursing and completed the required courses and clinical trials to earn RN or LPN/VN diplomas. In fact, aspiring nurses never completed the required courses and clinical trials.
Nursing applicants used fake diplomas and transcripts they bought from the owner and employees of Palm Beach School of Nursing to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states and nurse jobs for unwitting health care providers across the country. Napoleon had previously been charged with information and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit health and wire fraud and wire fraud (Case No. 22-60111-Cr-Smith and 22-60118-Cr -Smith).
Allegations related to falsification of nursing diplomas and extracts from International Institute of the Sacred Heart
USA v Jean et al. Case No: 23-60010-Cr-Smith
USA v. Etienne Case No: 23-60012-Cr-Singhal
According to the indictment, Sacred Heart International Institute was a Broward County school licensed by the Florida Board of Nursing that offered a nursing program designed to prepare students for jobs as practical nurses.
The indictment charges Ludny Jean of Harris County, Texas; Serge Jean of Harris County, Texas; Simon Itaman of Harris County, Texas; Anna Itaman of Harris County, Texas; Romy Louis of Suffolk County, New York; and Hope Auguste of Broward County with collusion and committing fraud using electronic means. These defendants are alleged to have extorted and recruited individuals who were seeking nursing degrees to get a job as an LPN/VN. These recruiters then arranged with Charles Etienne, the owner of Sacred Heart, to create and circulate false and fraudulent transcripts and diplomas showing that candidates had attended Sacred Heart and completed the required courses and clinical trials to earn their LPN/VN diplomas. In fact, aspiring nurses never completed the required courses and clinical trials. Etienne is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Nurse candidates have used fake diplomas and transcripts they bought from Sacred Heart to obtain LPN/VN licenses in various states and nurse jobs for unwitting health care providers across the country.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Marchenzie Lapointe; Acting Special Agent Chad Yarbrough, FBI, Miami Field Office; This was announced by special agent HHS-OIG Omar Perez Aibar.
The FBI Miami and HHS-OIG Miami investigated these cases. Invaluable assistance was provided by the National Security Investigations Division, Miami Field Office; US Department of Veterans Affairs – Office of the Inspector General; US Postal Inspection Service, Miami; and Florida Attorney General, Florida Medicaid Fraud Unit, Mid-Atlantic Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Clark is handling the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Grosnoff is handling the asset forfeiture. This case is being investigated in connection with a related criminal case in the Eastern District of Maryland.
Relevant court documents and information can be found on the District Court for the Southern District of Florida website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at