Diploma and tassel shot from above. Concept for graduation.

Regulators in a number of states are cracking down on nurses who received phony diplomas from three Florida nursing schools. 

In New York, regulators told more than 900 nurses in recent weeks they must either surrender their licenses or prove they were properly educated, according to an Associated Press report. The report said similar actions are underway in Delaware and Washington, while Texas regulators filed administrative charges against 23 nurses. More states are also expected to take action.

Attorneys for some nurses claim state regulators are questioning clinicians who earned their diplomas legitimately. However, one labor union representing nurses said bad actors should be rooted out.

“The public needs to know that when they’re the most fragile, when they’re sick, when they’re in a hospital bed, that the individual who is at their bedside has gone through the required training,” Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, president of the American Nurses Association told the AP. 

The regulatory action follows a federal investigation earlier this year known as Operation Nightingale. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida filed wire fraud charges against Siena College in Broward County, Palm Beach School of Nursing in Palm Beach County and Sacred Heart International Institute in Broward County for selling 7,600 fake nursing degree diplomas and transcripts to people. All three schools have closed.

The indictments charge the schools with soliciting and recruiting students to buy the phony documents without completing the required course work. Obtaining the fake diplomas allowed the students to sit for the national nursing board exam. 

The investigation spanned across a half dozen states. Prosecutors said many of those who received the bogus diplomas and passed the exams had gotten jobs at home health agencies and other medical providers in Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Texas. 

Prosecutors say up to two dozen people who sold the fake documents could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the crime.