Fargo nurse's license suspended after she got fake diploma in massive scheme, officials say

The LPN was one of more than 7,600 people who obtain nursing diplomas through an operation that netted federal charges against 25 defendants and closed three Florida nursing schools.

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FARGO — A Fargo licensed practical nurse was suspended from her duties in September after North Dakota officials learned she obtained false credentials in a scheme that produced thousands of fake nursing diplomas and transcripts.

The North Dakota Board of Nursing recently confirmed to The Forum that it suspended on Sept. 6 a nursing license for Dorothy Cummings, an LPN who worked at PAM Health Rehabilitation Hospital in Fargo. Attempts to reach Cummings were unsuccessful.

In a March 30 letter to The Forum, PAM Health said Cummings had worked part-time at the Fargo facility from July 2021 through October 2021.

"When her North Dakota license was suspended in September 2022, she had not worked at the hospital in nearly a year," Pam Health said in the statement.

Cummings "fraudulently obtained an illegitimate one-year practical nursing certificate and transcript" that she used to get her licensure as a licensed practical nurse in North Dakota on Nov. 11, 2020," according to an emergency order that suspended her license. She also didn't complete the needed program hours and clinical training needed to earn her practical nursing certificate and transcript, the order said.


The suspension in North Dakota will last five years, the order said. During that suspension, she is not allowed to work in any nursing role in North Dakota.

Minnesota also suspended Cummings’ license, according to Nursys, an online database that shows the status of nursing licenses in the U.S. Documents were not attached to that database, but Nursys said Cummings was suspended for “fraud, deceit or material omission in obtaining license or credentials."

North Dakota Nursing Board Executive Director Stacey Pfenning confirmed Cummings obtained the false credentials through a scheme that sold more than 7,600 fake nursing degree diplomas and transcripts.

The investigation, dubbed Operation Nightingale, was launched by the U.S. Department Health and Human Services and its law enforcement partners, according to a news release issued in January.

“Upon learning that an individual located in North Dakota was named in the FBI’s investigation, our compliance division took immediate action to prevent the nurse from engaging in the practice of nursing by issuing an order of emergency suspension," Pfenning said in a statement. "We continue to monitor the ongoing investigation and will not hesitate to take additional measures to protect public safety should additional individuals be brought to our attention by law enforcement.”

Cummings was the only nursing license holder in North Dakota connected to the investigation.

The Forum also reached out to the Minnesota Board of Nursing to ask if it had suspended any nursing licenses in connection to Operation Nightingale. The Minnesota agency did not respond by press time.

Cummings has not been criminally charged in the scheme, but 25 defendants are being prosecuted in the Southern District of Florida’s federal court. They face up to 20 years in prison.


The investigation revealed the fake diplomas were issued by Siena College, the Palm Beach School of Nursing and Sacred Heart International Institute, the release said. The three south Florida schools are now closed, according to the release.

Those facing charges owned, managed or worked for those schools, the release said.

“Not only is this a public safety concern, it also tarnishes the reputation of nurses who actually complete the demanding clinical and course work required to obtain their professional licenses and employment,” U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Markenzy Lapointe said in a statement.

Federal agents served search warrants in Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in south Florida.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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