It’s been nearly a month since authorities first announced the fake nursing diploma scheme known as “Operation Nightingale,” which involved the selling of some 7,600 bogus nursing degrees to aspiring providers looking to become RNs or LPNs for as much as $10,000 to $15,000 apiece.
Authorities charged 25 individuals for running the scheme in late January, but prosecutors are still investigating those who purchased the fake degrees with more charges to come. Many of these providers went on to pass the NCLEX and are now working as licensed nurses. Nursing boards all over the country are in the process of weeding out these individuals to stop them from providing care.
Four of the alleged masterminds behind the scheme live in Harris County, Texas, including Anna and Simon Itaman and Serge and Ludnie Jean. The state board of nursing also charged 23 individuals of Nigerian descent for their alleged participation in the scheme, including Jacob Abanda; Yetunde Abiodun; Agnes Addai, RN; Abiodun Adelakun, RN; Joseph Adelekan; Vivien Adeoye; Modinat Adewale; Olufemi Afolabi; Omowunmi Afolabi; Odumegwu Agbo, RN; Charlot Ajibade; Olabisi Akande; Catherine Akhigbe; Folasade Akinrolabu; Esiri Ako; Rosemary Akpan; Bukola Alimi; Awingrug Anaaba, RN; Ndirika Ani; Spendilove Anthony-Annor, RN; Nchekwube Aroh; Albert Asanga; and Sherifat Ayodeji.
But some of the students who purchased the degrees said they had no idea that they were illegitimate. Two women in Texas recently spoke out about their experience. They attended Jean’s NCLEX Review in northwest Harris County in April 2021. Both requested to remain anonymous amid the ongoing investigation.
“We had classes. We did our clinicals at a clinic. Really, nothing seemed out of the normal,” one woman explained after the charges were announced.
The women were planning on using their degrees to become licensed nurse practitioners but their dreams turned to dust when they found out the school was a sham.
“I love to take care of people. I have been a caregiver for like six, seven years now,” the woman added. The Jeans owned the school the two women were enrolled in. It was supposed to be a yearslong course intended to prepare students for the national nurse licensing exam.
“They really pulled it off,” the woman said of the Jeans.
The building where the two women took classes is now closed and available for lease.
“I wasted two years of my life with that school. I wasted my money,” one woman said. One of them spent a total of $14,500 on tuition, while the other spent $13,000. They said it involved years of hard work, but now they have nothing to show for it.
“I guess I am just going to have to start all over,” she said.
The Texas Nurses Association also weighed in on the matter. “The reports that some of the indicted individuals are in the state of Texas is deeply disturbing. This egregious act is not reflective of the nursing code of ethics nor the values of professional Texas nurses who put patients first every day,” said Serena Bumpus, a union representative.
“A degree in nursing is one of the most difficult to obtain due to the rigorous coursework and skills required. Our education prepares us to provide safe patient care. The fact that a group of individuals chose to disregard the importance of this training is shocking, especially since nurses have been the most trusted profession for more than two decades. This undermines the integrity of our profession. Investigations are ongoing and confidential, however, to date TNA has not learned of any patient harm caused by these individuals.”
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