HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Two Houston-area women are trying to figure out their next move after recently learning the nursing diplomas they've been working towards are bogus.
Twenty-five people, including four from Harris County, have been charged for their alleged part in a scheme that created an illegal licensing and employment shortcut for aspiring nurses.
"We had classes. We did our clinicals at a clinic. Really, nothing seemed out of the normal," one woman explained.
ABC13 spoke with two women who said they started taking classes at Jean's NCLEX Review in northwest Harris County in April 2021. It was supposed to be a yearlong course. They had their sights set on becoming licensed practical nurses.
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"I love to take care of people. I have been a caregiver for like six, seven years now," she explained.
Eyewitness News did not show the women's faces as they fear retaliation.
In January, the Department of Justice announced federal charges for 25 people allegedly involved in a fake nursing diploma scheme. Four of those people, Anna and Simon Itaman and Serge and Ludnie Jean, live in Harris County. The Jeans owned the school these women were enrolled in.
"They really pulled it off," she said.
ABC13 went to the building where these women said they went to take exams off West Little York Road. It is now closed and for lease, and these women's dreams of becoming nurses are on hold.
"I wasted two years of my life with that school. I wasted my money," one woman said.
In total, one woman says she paid $14,500 in tuition. The other woman said she paid $13,000, plus the hard work, and now, there's no diploma to show for it.
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"I guess I am just going to have to start all over," she said.
Eyewitness News tried several times to reach out to the four local people allegedly involved in this scheme. So far, we have yet to hear back from any of them.
We reached out to the Texas Nurses Association about the fraudulent diploma scheme. They sent us the following response:
"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, DPN, RN, NEA-BC, CEO of TNA. "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."
To read more about this case, read the full release on the US Department of Justice's website.
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