One of Iowa’s largest nursing home providers has been pulled into a months-long federal investigation of fraudulent nursing licenses.
Care Initiatives of West Des Moines was employing at least one nurse who obtained her educational credentials through a scam operating in Florida to sell transcripts and other materials to approximately 7,600 people, per reporting in the Des Moines Register. The Iowa Board of Nursing voted recently to revoke the license of Helena Dahnweih of Cedar Rapids who stated on her 2019 licensure application that she received her nursing associate degree from Med-Life Institute in West Palm Beach, FL, in 2017.
During a recent Board of Nursing hearing, Dahnweih claimed to have “no knowledge that negotiating the rate of tuition, little to no classroom instruction, uncertain class schedules, and faculty and staff using personal email addresses for official communication were all, at a minimum, highly unusual for a legitimate educational program,” the Des Moines Register reported. The Board said her case was “particularly egregious” and stated it was not credible that Dahnweih believed her Med-Life Institute degree was legitimate.
Care Initiatives of West Des Moines did not respond to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News when asked for comment. The Des Moines paper noted that Dahnweih was employed there as recently as this summer and had been there for four years.
In January, federal officials announced charges against more than two dozen individuals for their alleged roles in a scheme to provide fraudulent education credentials to people seeking a shortcut to nursing work. Called Operation Nightingale, the US Department of Justice said that more than 7,600 people paid an average of $15,000 for fake diplomas, and that approximately 2,400 passed state licensing exams to become registered nurses. State and federal officials have continued the investigation, which included tracking down the individual diploma recipients.
Three nurses were removed from an Atlanta, GA, Veterans Administration medical center in January, according to local reporting. Forty-six individuals were barred from practicing in New Jersey, and Texas has filed charges against more than 100 people suspected of being involved in the scheme.The former president of the Palm Beach School of Nursing, one of the schools federal officials said was handing out fake diplomas, was sentenced in July to nearly two years in prison and $3.5 million in fines, most of which she has already paid.