FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Five people who were among dozens charged in a South Florida-based fake nursing degree scheme pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges Monday, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Three now-shuttered South Florida nursing schools sold about 7,600 fake diplomas, worth about $100 million, prosecutors alleged. The schools were based out of Broward and Palm Beach counties.The following five defendants pleaded guilty, according to authorities: Krystal Lopez and Damian Lopez of Palm Beach County; Francois Legagneur of Suffolk County, New York; Reynoso Seide of Union County, New Jersey; and Yelva Saint Preux of Suffolk County, New York.
Prosecutors said Damian Lopez, Legagneur, Seide, and Saint Preux admitted to soliciting and recruiting people who sought nursing credentials.
“They also admitted to working with Palm Beach School of Nursing to create and distribute fraudulent diplomas and transcripts representing that the aspiring nursing candidates had attended the school and completed the necessary courses and clinicals to obtain their nursing diplomas,” prosecutors said in a news release. “In fact, the aspiring nurses had not completed the courses and clinicals.”
Prosecutors said Krystal Lopez “admitted that, in her role as Palm Beach School of Nursing’s finance director, she processed applications for individuals who were issued fraudulent nursing school diplomas and transcripts and that each student paid the school $15,000 for the documents.”
The crackdown on the fraudulent diploma scheme, announced in January, was dubbed “Operation Nightingale,” after legendary nurse Florence Nightingale.
Each will be sentenced July 27 in Fort Lauderdale federal court and face up to 20 years in prison.