Feds Charge 25 in South Florida Fraudulent Diploma Scheme: Nurses and Others Face Board of Nursing Licensure and Criminal Investigations

A blue door with two small holes in it.

Some 7,600 men and women who allegedly received fraudulent nursing diplomas and transcripts from three Florida-based nursing schools are now being notified that they are under investigation and could face not only disciplinary action but also possible criminal charges.

The notices are in response to a bogus diploma and transcript ring that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida busted last month, resulting in criminal charges against 25 individuals. The case was dubbed “Operation Nightingale.â€

Three South Florida-based nursing schools: Siena College and Sacred Heart International Institute, both in Broward County, and Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County allegedly were involved. All three have since been shuttered.

The defendants are alleged to have taken part in a scheme to sell fraudulent nursing degree diplomas and transcripts to those seeking licenses and jobs as registered nurses and licensed practical/vocational nurses At least 7,600 people are believed to be involved in the purchase of the fraudulent paperwork and about one-third of them are believed to be practicing around the country.

By gaining access to the diplomas and transcripts, those who purchased them were allowed to sit for the national nursing board exam and, if they passed, to obtain licenses and jobs in various states. The alleged scheme is said to have taken place since 2016. The fraudulent nursing diplomas went for $15,000 each, netting more than $114 million.

Regarding Sienna College, those charged are identified as Stanton Witherspoon and Alfred Sellu, both of Burlington County N.J. and Rene Bernadel of Westchester County, N.Y. It is alleged that they arranged with Eunide Sanon, who managed Siena College and is charged with wire fraud conspiracy, to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts.

With regard to Palm Beach School of Nursing, those charged are identified as Gail Russ and Ricky Riley both of Broward County; Cheryl Stanley of Collier County; Krystal, Lopez, Norberto Lopez, Damian Lopez and Cassandre Jean all of Palm Beach County; Francois Legagneur and Evangeline Naissant of Nassau County, N.Y.; Yvrose Thermitus, a/k/a “Yvrose Thompson,†and Reynoso Seide of Union County, N.J.; Yelva Saint Preux of Suffolk County, N.Y.; Rony Michel of Monmouth County, N.J.; and Vilaire Duroseau of Essex County, N.J.

It is alleged that these recruiters arranged with Palm Beach School of Nursing’s owner Johanah Napoleon and school employees Gail Russ, Cheryl Stanley, Krystal Lopez and Ricky Riley to create and distribute false and fraudulent diplomas and transcripts representing that the aspiring RN and LPN/VN candidates had attended Palm Beach School of Nursing and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain RN or LPN/VN diplomas. However, it is alleged they never completed the necessary courses and clinicals.

Napoleon previously was charged and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, as well as wire fraud (case nos. 22-60111-Cr-Smith and 22-60118-Cr-Smith).

With regard to Sacred Heart International Institute, the indictment alleges Ludnie Jean, Serge Jean, Simon Itaman and Anna Itaman all of Harris County, Texas; Rhomy Louis of Suffolk County, N.Y.; and Nadege Auguste of Broward County,solicited and recruited individuals and arranged with Charles Etienne, Sacred Heart’s owner, to create and distribute false and fraudulent transcripts and fraudulent nursing diplomas representing that the aspiring candidates had attended Sacred Heart and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain LPN/VN diplomas. Etienne is charged by information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.  

The defendants face up to 20 years in prison.

The charging documents can be found here:






In July 2021, a Miami federal grand jury returned an indictment against two Lauderhill residents for their roles in a fraud conspiracy that allegedly sold fake nursing degrees to people who had not completed the required nursing coursework or clinicals.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale utilizes a team of healthcare attorneys, consultants and experts to represent nurses and other health care professionals who are the subject or targets of health care fraud investigations.

Becoming the target of a healthcare fraud investigation is serious business. The best outcome would be to avoid being disciplined or charged and in the process prevent all the unwanted publicity and damage to your reputation and your business. The minute you become aware that you or your company are under investigation.

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