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Guilty pleas issued in 'Operation Nightingale' nursing diploma fraud

Prosecutors said Florida residents, along with individuals from other states, were charged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas.
Guilty pleas issued in 'Operation Nightingale' nursing diploma fraud
Posted at 7:49 PM, Sep 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-28 21:49:14-04

The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Thursday that 20 defendants have pleaded guilty or have been convicted in U.S. District Court in South Florida for their participation in a wire fraud scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses.

Based on evidence gathered in an investigation known as Operation Nightingale, prosecutors said Florida residents, along with individuals from other states, were charged in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts obtained from accredited Florida-based nursing schools to individuals seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical or vocational nurses.

The bogus diplomas and transcripts qualified purchasers to sit for the national nursing board exam and, after passing it, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states as RNs and LPNs or VNs. 

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The overall scheme involved the distribution of more than 7,600 fake nursing diplomas issued by three South Florida-based nursing schools, including Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County, Siena College in Broward County and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County. 

All of these schools are now closed following the investigation. 

The Department of Justice said nursing applicants used fraudulent diplomas to obtain RN or LPN/VN licenses in various states, and to obtain nursing jobs while health care providers were unaware of the scheme.

Defendants who pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial for their involvement in the fraudulent nursing diploma scheme had their identities released to the public. 

Defendants associated with fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts from Palm Beach School of Nursing include:

-Krystal Lopez of Palm Beach County, who pleaded guilty on May 10 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14.

-Damian Lopez of Palm Beach County pleaded guilty on May 10 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Lopez is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14.

-Francois Legagneur of Nassau County, New York, pleaded guilty on May 10 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Legagneur is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 13.

-Reynoso Seide of Union County, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on May 10 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Seide was sentenced on Sept. 19 to 24 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

-Yelva Saint Preux of Suffolk County, New York, pleaded guilty on May 10 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Preux is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 14.

-Palm Beach School of Nursing's owner Johanah Napoleon pleaded guilty on Nov. 21, 2022 to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Napoleon was sentenced on July 18 to 21 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to forfeit $3.2 million.

Defendants associated with fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts from Siena College include:

-Stanton Witherspoon of Burlington County, New Jersey, who pleaded guilty on Aug. 24 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Witherspoon is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 2.

-Alfred Sellu of Burlington County, New Jersey pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sellu is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 2.

-Rene Bernadel of Westchester County, New York, pleaded guilty on Aug. 24 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Bernadel is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 2.

-Eunide Sanon of Fort Lauderdale pleaded guilty March 14 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sanon was sentenced on May 23 to 27 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release. Sanon was ordered to forfeit $1,287,633.

Defendants Associated with fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts from Sacred Heart International Institute include: 

-Rhomy Louis of Suffolk County, New York, who pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Louis is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28

-Simon Itaman of Harris County, Texas, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Itaman is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 28.

-Anna Itaman of Harris County, Texas, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Itaman is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28.

-Serge Jean of Harris County, Texas, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Jean is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28.

-Ludnie Jean of Harris County, Texas, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Jean is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 28.

-Cimoyne Alves of Lincoln, Rhode Island, pleaded guilty on Aug. 18 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Alves is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 30. 

-Charles Etienne of Lake Worth pleaded guilty April 11 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Etienne is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 2. 

-Nadege Auguste of Coral Springs, Florida, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Sept. 28. Auguste is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 3, 2024.  

Defendants associated with fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts through PowerfulU Healthcare Services LLC include:

-Geralda Adrien of Fort Lauderdale, Florida pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and was sentenced on Aug. 10, 2022 to 27 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $3,309,000.

-Woosevelt Predestin of Fort Lauderdale pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and was sentenced on Aug. 10, 2022, to 27 months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $3,309,000.


This story was originally published by Scott Sutton of Scripps News West Palm Beach


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