Several people were arrested as part of a certification scam that put residents of Miami-Dade assisted living facilities at risk, authorities said Wednesday.
The 21 suspects, including assisted living facility employees, private bus operators and three ringleaders, were arrested in "Operation Cardiac Arrest," according to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
Authorities said that the alleged ringleader, Maria Del Consuelo Fernandez, made fake credentials in her Little Havana apartment. She faces charges including racketeering, forging and counterfeiting credentials.
People would come to her and pay for fake health-related certification so they could get a job, said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
During the investigation, an undercover detective posed as someone who needed a job. Del Consuelo Fernandez allegedly said that for $200 she could get the detective certification and a job working with children who had Down Syndrome, officials said.
A woman in Chicago will also surrender herself, Fernandez Rundle said.
Authorities shut down an assisted living facility called Yuli's Place in southwest Miami-Dade County. Fernandez Rundle said that once officials found everyone working there had phony credentials, they realized there was no one to properly care for the residents.
When asked if this scam put people's lives in jeopardy, Fernandez Rundle said: "Absolutely. Why do you think those certifications are required?"
Health-care workers need to have specialized training to deal with the elderly or people with disabilities, authorities said.