Article - Unaccredited Degree Info:

Information resources concerning unaccredited degree-granting institutions


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Information from state governments


  • State of Alabama Private School Licensure Policy (October 2008): 720.01: Private School Licensure in Alabama

    ...IV. Minimum School Rules...


        B. The Educational Program...


          4. All privately licensed degree granting, post-secondary educational institutions must be accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), be a candidate for accreditation or in process of application for accreditation as determined and monitored by the Department. This requirement becomes effective beginning October 1, 2008 for any degree granting institutions applying for initial or renewal licensure. The Code of Alabama § 16-46-3 (1975) (a) (7) and (9) lists exemptions to this requirement as follows:


            (7) Any private school conducting resident courses whose principal base of operation is within the State of Alabama which has been in continuous operation for 20 years or more as of April 29, 1980, and held accreditation as of that date by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

    (9) Any proprietary postsecondary institution conducting resident courses that has been in operation within Alabama for at least five years as of July 1, 2004, and that is accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education shall be accorded the following provision: Upon proof of such accreditation, such schools shall be issued a license and representative permits after required fees are paid to the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.

    Any change of accreditation status must be reported to the Department within 30 calendar days of the change...


  • State of California: Proposed Assembly Bill 48, California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009.

    The California State Legislature is considering legislation that would allow the state to once again regulate higher education providers. Some of the portions that I found interesting are listed below.
    Article 2. Transition provisions

    (b) An institution that did not have a valid approval to operate issued by, and did not have an application for approval to operate pending with, the former Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education on June 30, 2007, that began operations on or after July 1, 2007, may continue to operate, but shall comply with, and is subject to, this chapter, and shall submit an application for an approval to operate to the bureau pursuant to this chapter within six months of that application becoming available. ...

    (d) An institution that is permitted to operate pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b) shall not use the terms "approval," "approved," "approval to operate," or "approved to operate" without clearly stating that the institution's application for approval has not been reviewed by the bureau.

    Article 3. Definitions

    94813. "Accredited" means an institution is recognized or approved by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

    94814. "Accrediting agency" is an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

    94830. "Degree" means a recognized educational credential awarded by an institution that signifies satisfactory completion of the requirements of a postsecondary educational program at the associate's level or above.

    94831. "Degree title" means the designated subject area of the educational program that appears on the face of the document awarded to a student.

    94832. "Diploma" means a recognized educational credential, other than a degree, awarded by an institution that signifies satisfactory completion of the requirements of a postsecondary educational program below the associate's level. A diploma is also known as a certificate.

    94869. "To operate" means to establish, keep, or maintain any facility or location in this state where or from which where, or from which, or through which, postsecondary educational programs are provided.

    Article 4. Exemptions

    (A) The instruction is limited to the principles of that church, religious denomination, or religious organization, or to courses offered pursuant to Section 2789 of Business and Professions Code.
    (B) The diploma or degree is limited to evidence of completion of that education.
    (2) An institution operating under this subdivision shall offer degrees and diplomas only in the beliefs and practices of the church, religious denomination, or religious organization.
    (3) An institution operating under this subdivision shall not award degrees in any area of physical science.
    (4) Any degree or diploma granted under this subdivision shall contain on its face, in the written description of the title of the degree being conferred, a reference to the theological or religious aspect of the degree's subject area.
    (5) A degree awarded under this subdivision shall reflect the nature of the degree title, such as "associate of religious studies," "bachelor of religious studies," "master of divinity," or "doctor of divinity."

    Article 5. Bureau Powers and Duties

    94877. (a) The bureau shall adopt, on or before January 1, 2011, and shall enforce, regulations to implement this chapter pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act in Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section 11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code.

    (b) The bureau shall develop and implement an enforcement program, pursuant to Article 18 (commencing with Section 94932) to implement this chapter. The enforcement program shall include a plan for investigating complaints filed with the bureau.

    (c) The bureau shall establish a program to proactively identify unlicensed institutions and take all appropriate legal action.

    Article 6. Approval to Operate

    94885. The bureau shall, by January 1, 2011, adopt by regulation minimum operating standards for an institution that shall reasonably ensure that all of the following occur:
    (a) The content of each educational program can achieve its stated objective.
    (b) The institution maintains specific written standards for student admissions for each educational program and those standards are related to the particular educational program.
    (c) The facilities, instructional equipment, and materials are sufficient to enable students to achieve the educational program's goals.
    (d) The institution maintains a withdrawal policy and provides refunds.
    (e) The directors, administrators, and faculty are properly qualified.
    (f) The institution is financially sound and capable of fulfilling its commitments to students.
    (g) That, upon satisfactory completion of an educational program, the institution gives students a document signifying the degree or diploma awarded.
    (h) Adequate records and standard transcripts are maintained and are available to students.
    (i) The institution is maintained and operated in compliance with this chapter and all other applicable ordinances and laws.

    Article 8. Fair Business Practices

    94897. An institution shall not do any of the following:
    (e) Advertise, or indicate in promotional material, that the institution is accredited, unless the institution has been accredited by an accrediting agency.
    (i) Use a name in any manner improperly implying any of the following:
    (1) The institution is affiliated with any government agency, public or private corporation, agency, or association if it is not, in fact, thus affiliated.
    (2) The institution is a public institution.
    (3) The institution grants degrees, if the institution does not grant degrees.
    (l) Use the terms "approval," "approved," "approval to operate," or "approved to operate" without stating clearly and conspicuously that approval to operate means compliance with state standards as set forth in this chapter. If the bureau has granted an institution approval to operate, the institution may indicate that the institution is "licensed" or "licensed to operate," but may not state or imply either of the following:
    (1) The institution or its educational programs are endorsed or recommended by the state or by the bureau.
    (2) The approval to operate indicates that the institution exceeds minimum state standards as set forth in this chapter.

    Article 9. Recordkeeping

    (b) The names and addresses of the members of the institution's faculty and records of the educational qualifications of each member of the faculty.

    Article 18. Compliance, Enforcement, Process, and Penalties

    94932.5. As part of its compliance program, the bureau shall perform announced and unannounced inspections of institutions.

    94934. (a) As part of the compliance program, an institution shall submit an annual report to the bureau, under penalty of perjury, by July 1 of each year, or another date designated by the bureau, and it shall include the following information for educational programs offered in the reporting period:
    (1) The total number of students enrolled by level of degree or for a diploma.
    (2) The number of degrees, by level, and diplomas awarded.
    (3) The degree levels and diplomas offered...

    94936. (a) As a consequence of an investigation, and upon a finding that the institution has committed a violation of this chapter or that the institution has failed to comply with a notice to comply pursuant to Section 94935, the bureau shall issue a citation to an institution for violation of this chapter, or regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter.
    (b) The citation may contain either or both of the following:
    (1) An order of abatement that may require an institution to demonstrate how future compliance with this chapter or regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter will be accomplished.
    (2) Notwithstanding Section 125.9 of the Business and Professions Code, an administrative fine not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each violation...

    94943. The following violations of this chapter are public offenses:
    (a) Knowingly operating a private postsecondary institution without an approval to operate is an infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and 19.7 of the Penal Code.
    (b) Knowingly providing false information to the bureau on an application for an approval to operate is an infraction subject to the procedures described in Sections 19.6 and 19.7 of the Penal Code.

    94944. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the bureau shall cite any person, and that person shall be subject to a fine not to exceed fifty thousand dollars ($50,000), for operating an institution without proper approval to operate issued by the bureau pursuant to this chapter.

    "Infraction" is a class of violation not punishable by incarceration under the California Penal Code. (The other categories listed in the CPC are felonies and misdemeanors.)

    Here are sections 19.6 and 19.7:

    19.6. An infraction is not punishable by imprisonment. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to a trial by jury. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to have the public defender or other counsel appointed at public expense to represent him or her unless he or she is arrested and not released on his or her written promise to appear, his or her own recognizance, or a deposit of bail.

    19.7. Except as otherwise provided by law, all provisions of law relating to misdemeanors shall apply to infractions including, but not limited to, powers of peace officers, jurisdiction of courts, periods for commencing action and for bringing a case to trial and burden of proof.


  • State of Idaho Statutes: Title 33-- Education, Chapter 24-- Proprietary Schools

    (1) Unless exempted as provided herein, each postsecondary educational institution which maintains a presence within the state of Idaho, or which operates or purports to operate from a location within the state of Idaho, shall register annually with and hold a valid certificate of registration issued by the board...
    (3) The board may deny the registration of a postsecondary educational institution that does not meet accreditation requirements or other standards and criteria established in rule by the board...

    At the time of depositing any moneys to purchase the product of any proprietary school, the proprietary school shall require the student to execute the following statement on an appropriate form which shall be maintained on record by the proprietary school in the individual student's file:
    "I understand that (Name of proprietary school) is registered with the State Board of Education in accordance with Section 33-2403, Idaho Code. I also understand that the State Board of Education has not accredited or endorsed any course of study being offered by (Name of proprietary school), and that these courses will not be accepted for transfer into any Idaho public postsecondary institution."
    33-2409. ENFORCEMENT.
    Any violation of the provisions of this chapter shall be referred to the attorney general by the board for appropriate action including, but not limited to, injunctive relief.


  • State of Maine Department of Education: Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills

    "Degree mills and accreditation mills mislead and harm. In the presence of degree mills and accreditation mills, students may spend a good deal of money and effort and receive neither an education, nor a useable credential..."

    The web site includes a list of unaccredited degree granting entities and a link to Maine's legal code "False Academic Degrees or Certificates." Maine's law includes definitions of the terms "diploma mill" and "accreditation mill."


  • State of Michigan list: Non-accredited colleges and universities

    "Degrees from these institutions will not be accepted by the [Michigan] Department of Civil Service as satisfying any educational requirements indicated on job specifications."


  • State of Mississippi list: NON-APPROVED ENTITIES

    The Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation's list of organizations that are NOT approved to grant degrees in Mississippi. In spite of this, many of the entities on the list show Mississippi locations.




  • State of New Jersey Commission on Higher Education Statutes & Regulations Regarding Academic Degrees

    N.J.S.A. 18A:3-15.1. Deceptive diploma practices
    A person shall not with the intent to deceive buy, sell, make or alter, give, issue, obtain or attempt to obtain any diploma or other document purporting to confer any academic degree, or which certifies the completion in whole or in part of any course of study in any institution of higher education.

        L. 1986, c. 87, s. 1, eff. Aug. 14, 1986.

    N.J.S.A. 18A:3-15.2. Use of fraudulent degree
    A person or other legal entity shall not use, or attempt to use, in connection with any business, trade, profession or occupation any academic degree or certification of degree or degree credit, including but not limited to a transcript of course work, which has been fraudulently issued, obtained, forged or altered. A person shall not, with intent to deceive, falsely represent himself as having received any such degree or credential.

        L. 1986, c. 87, s. 2, eff. Aug. 14, 1986.

    N.J.S.A. 18A:3-15.3. Letter designation restricted
    A person shall not append to his name any letters in the same form designated by the Commission on Higher Education as entitled to the protection accorded to an academic degree unless the person has received from a duly authorized institution of higher education the degree or certificate for which the letters are registered. For the purposes of this section, a duly authorized institution of higher education means an in-State institution licensed by the Commission on Higher Education or an out-of-State institution licensed by the appropriate state agency and regionally accredited or seeking accreditation by the appropriate accrediting body recognized by the Council on Postsecondary Education or the United States Department of Education.

        L.1986,c.87,s.3; amended 1994,c.48,s.36.

    N.J.S.A. 18A:3-15.5. Civil penalty
    Any person who violates any provision of this act is liable to a civil penalty of $1,000.00 for each offense, which shall be collected pursuant to the provisions of "the penalty enforcement law," N.J.S. 2A:58-1 et seq.

        L. 1986, c. 87, s. 5, eff. Aug. 14, 1986.


    Licensure Rules - Subchapter 8
    Fraudulent Academic Degrees

    N.J.A.C. 9A:1-8.1 Protected degree designations for earned degrees
    (a) No person shall use or append to his or her name any academic degree designation, letters, derivatives thereof, or other designations as evidence of having earned an academic degree unless a duly authorized institution of higher education as defined in Section 3 of P.L.1986, c.87 (N.J.S.A. 18A:3-15.3) conferred the degree.


    1. In states without a licensing requirement for institutions of higher education, a duly authorized institution of higher education is one that is regionally accredited or accredited by the appropriate accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education or one that is seeking such accreditation.


    2. Regarding institutions located outside of the U.S. or its possessions, a duly authorized institution of higher education is one that is recognized by the appropriate body in the particular country provided that the institution's requirements for awarding degrees are generally equivalent to those accepted in the U.S. by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.


  • State of Oregon Office of Degree Authorization: An Employer's Guide to College Degrees

    "This guide has been developed to provide basic information to Oregon employers regarding the nature of college degrees. It covers Oregon law regarding the use of degrees, how to accurately describe degree needs when advertising for a position, how to evaluate a job applicant's claim of a degree, the growing problem of diploma mill degrees, and related issues..."

    Information posted by Oregon from NACES members concerning "Berne University" (since renamed "Bernelli University")

    Information about some degree-granting institutions not accredited by CHEA-recognized organizations

    Office of Degree Authorization
    1500 Valley River Drive
    Suite 100
    Eugene, OR 97401
    (541) 687-7452



  • State of Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board:

    • Fraudulent or Substandard Institutions with a Texas Connection:
      All institutions on this list have had some physical presence in Texas or have been affiliated in some way with an institution located in Texas...

      The Texas Penal Code (Section 35.52) prohibits the use of fraudulent or substandard degrees "in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or with the intent to: obtain employment; obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain a promotion, a compensation or other benefit, or an increase in compensation or other benefit, in employment or in the practice of a trade, profession, or occupation; obtain admission to an educational program in this state; or gain a position in government with authority over another person, regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position." Violation of this law is a Class B misdemeanor.


    • Frequently Asked Questions about diploma mills, fraudulent degrees, and accreditation. Among other things:
      Accreditation is "voluntary," so doesn't that mean it is optional and not necessary?

      Accreditation is voluntary in that the process of accreditation requires the full cooperation with and complete participation in the process of accreditation by the college or university seeking accreditation. At the heart of the accreditation process is a self-study prepared by the college or university demonstrating its commitment to the standards of accreditation.

      Since accreditation is the primary means of determining the legitimacy and quality of colleges and universities in the United States, to describe the process as "voluntary" is not to describe it as "optional" or "unnecessary."


  • State of Virginia code: Virginia Chapter 21.1 - Regulation of Certain Private and Out-of-State Institutions of Higher Education


  • State of Wisconsin Senate Bill 431 banning fraudulent degrees




    Information from federal (and federally recognized) sources


  • Toward Effective Practice: Discouraging Degree Mills in Higher Education

    Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)


  • Database of Institutions Accredited By Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations

    Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)



    Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)


  • Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions

    U.S. Office of Personnel Management


  • Postsecondary Educational Institutions and Programs Accredited by Accrediting Agencies and State Approval Agencies Recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education

    U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Postsecondary Education


  • Avoid Fake-Degree Burns By Researching Academic Credentials

    U.S. Federal Trade Commission


  • Diploma Mills: Degrees of Deception

    U.S. Federal Trade Commission



  • Guides for Private Vocational and Distance Education Schools, Part 254, as revised August 1998

    U.S. Federal Trade Commission. The "Guides..." document describes deceptive practices in issuing or claiming accreditation.



  • Fraudulent Medical Degrees. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care of the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, Ninety-Eighth Congress, Second Session; Congress of the U.S., Washington, D.C. House Select Committee on Aging, December 7, 1984. (12.1 MB)
  • Fraudulent Credentials. Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care and the Subcommittee on Housing and Consumer Interests of the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, Ninety-Ninth Congress, First Session; Congress of the U.S., Washington, D.C. House Select Committee on Aging, December 11, 1985. (9.3 MB)
  • Fraudulent Credentials: Federal Employees. A Report by the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health and Long-Term Care of the Select Committee on Aging, House of Representatives, Ninety-Ninth Congress, Second Session, Congress of the U.S., Washington, D.C. House Select Committee on Aging, April 1986. (720 kB)
  • Bogus Degrees And Unmet Expectations: Are Taxpayer Dollars Subsidizing Diploma Mills? Hearings Before the Committee On Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Eighth Congress, Second Session, May 11 and 12, 2004, Washington, DC. (8.5 MB)
  • September 23, 2004 hearing: Are Current Safeguards Protecting Taxpayers Against Diploma Mills? U.S. House Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.
  • Witness list and testimony
  • Press release
  • Hearing transcript



    Information from non-U.S. agencies


  • UNESCO Portal on Higher Education Institutions.

    "This portal offers access to on-line information on higher education institutions recognized or otherwise sanctioned by competent authorities in participating countries."


  • UNESCO Higher Education; Quality Assurance and Recognition; Tools for students. (also available in French.)


  • ENIC - NARIC (European National Information Centres - National Academic Recognition Information Centres) site


  • U.K. Department for Education and Skills

    DfES maintains the list of recognized U.K. degree-awarding colleges and universities. If a degree-granting entity claims to be in the U.K. but is not on the DfES list, it cannot legally issue British degrees.


  • U.K. Home Affairs Committee - Eleventh Report: Bogus colleges


  • Avoiding bogus degrees, from Direct.Gov.UK

    A page of information from the UK government.


  • U.K. General Medical Council information about U.K. medical schools

    GMC lists recognised U.K. medical schools.


  • Australian Government Warning to potential investors concerning 'Hutt River Province'

    The Australian Government does not legally or otherwise recognise the so-called 'Hutt River Province'.

    The Tax Office has identified a situation where non-residents of Australia have been offered the chance to purchase international business companies and other entities purportedly incorporated or registered in the 'Hutt River Province'.

    We are concerned that the companies and other entities may be sold as part of a tax avoidance or evasion arrangement.

    People should avoid any arrangements involving 'Hutt River Province' international business companies and any other entities as well as any associated international dealings because they have no legal basis and could be illegal.

    Here is an ABC-Australia story about HRP, broadcast in 2003. Some unaccredited degree-granting entities display "credentials" from HRP.


  • French government higher education information (in French)

    • Links to various lists
    • the list of recognized universities
    • "Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience" (VAE: academic credit for life experience)

      My reading of the VAE material makes me think that only a school that appears on the French government's list of universities is legally empowered to issue French VAE-obtained degrees. This was confirmed by two of my colleagues who are directors of French university units in Marseille. If this is the case, then an unaccredited degree-granting entity that is run from the United States, and that does not appear on the French list, cannot properly award French diplomas through VAE.

  • Nigerian national Universities Commission

    18 August 2008 news letter from NUC. See page 5 for a list of 34 approved universities in Nigeria. See page 7 for a list of "universities" that are operating illegally:



    The National Universities Commission (NUC) wishes to announce to the general public, especially parents and prospective undergraduates that the under-listed "Universities" have not been licensed by the Federal Government and are, therefore, operating illegally in violation of Education (National Minimum Standards etc) Act CAP E3 Law of the Federation of Nigeria 2004. The "Universities" are:

    1) National University of Nigeria, Keffi, Nassarawa State or any of its other campuses
    2) North Central University, Otukpo, Benue State or any of its other campuses
    3) Christians of Charity American University of Sci. & Tech, Nkpor, Anambra State or any of its other campuses
    4) Leadway University, Ughelli, Delta State or any of its other campuses
    5) Saint Clements University, along Ado-Ekiti, Iyin, Ekiti State or any of its other campuses
    6) Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University, Enugu or any of its other campuses
    7) Atlantic Intercontinental University, Okija, Anambra State or any of its other campuses
    8) Metro University, Dutse/Bwari, Abuja or any of its other campuses
    9) Southend University, Ngwuro Egeru (Afam) Ndoki, Rivers State or any of its other campuses
    10) University of Industry, Yaba, Lagos or any of its other campuses
    11) University of Applied Sciences & Management, Port Novo, Republic of Benin or any of its other campuses in Nigeria
    12) Rev. D. O. Ockiya College of Theology and Management Sciences, Emeyal II Ogbia, Bayelsa. (The Degree awarding part of their programmes) or any of its other campuses
    13) Blacksmith University, Awka or any of its other campuses
    14) Volta University College, Ho, Volta Region, Ghana or any of its other campuses in Nigeria
    15) Royal University Izhia, P.O. Box 800, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State or any of its other campuses
    16) Houdegbe North American University or any of its other campuses in Nigeria
    17) Atlanta University, Ayingba, Kogi State or any of its other campuses
    18) Sunday Adokpela University, Otada Adoka, Otukpo, Benue State or any of its other campuses
    19) United Christian University, Macotis Campus, Imo State or any of its other campuses
    20) United Nigeria University College, Okija, Anambra State or any of its other campuses. 21) Richmond Open University, Arochukwu, Anambra State or any of its other campuses
    22) Samuel Ahmadu University, Makurdi, Benue State or any of its other campuses
    23) UNESCO University, Ndoni, Rivers State or any of its other campuses
    24) Strategic Business School, Lagos or any of its other campuses
    25) Saint Augustines University of Technology, Jos, Plateau State or any of its other campuses
    26) Open International University, Akure or any of its other campuses
    27) Lobi Business School, Makurdi, Benue State or any of its other campuses
    28) The International University, Missouri, USA operating anywhere in Nigeria
    29) Collumbus University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria
    30) Tiu International University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria
    31) Pebbles University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria
    32) Aston University, UK operating anywhere in Nigeria
    33) London External Studies UK operating anywhere in Nigeria.

    For the avoidance of doubt, anybody who patronises or obtains any certificate from any of these illegal institutions, does so at his or her own risk. Certificates obtained from these sources will not be recognized for the purposes of NYSC, employment, and further studies. The relevant Law enforcement agencies have also been informed for their further necessary action.



Scholarly works, etc. on accreditation and higher education oversight




In the news

  • Kan. IT chief resigns over questions about degree, Tim Carpenter, The Capital-Journal, November 8, 2011.


    Gov. Sam Brownback accepted the resignation Tuesday of the executive branch's new chief information technology officer following disclosure the $150,000-a-year appointee's college degree was acquired from a diploma mill.

    Jim Mann, 58, submitted a brief letter of resignation to Brownback — hours after the governor defended him in the wake of inquiries regarding Mann's possession of a business administration degree from the University of Devonshire.

    The University of Devonshire isn’t accredited by leading higher education agencies in the United States and United Kingdom. The school is affiliated with an umbrella company regarded as one of the leading marketers in off-the-shelf college diplomas.

    "The questions surrounding my qualifications to perform and deliver in this position have compromised confidence in me and in my integrity," Mann's letter said. "As such, I am no longer an asset to your team and your IT mission."

    Brownback led a news conference Monday announcing the hiring of Mann to lead an aggressive centralization of technology systems in the state government's executive branch. The Republican governor expressed confidence Mann had the background and skills to reduce costs and improve performance of the network relied upon by state agencies.

    The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Monday afternoon the University of Devonshire was part of a consortium of schools in the University Degree Program, a company viewed as one of the most prolific diploma-production enterprises.

    The University of Devonshire isn’t accredited by the Council of Higher Education Accreditation in the United States or the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in the United Kingdom.

    On Tuesday morning after a Statehouse news conference, Brownback reinforced his confidence in Mann's capacity to reform the state's information technology network. He said he selected Mann based on a thorough review of his record with former employers.

    The hiring had nothing to do with Mann's acquisition in 1995 of a business degree through a distance-learning program, Brownback said. The governor wasn't aware until after announcing his hiring the unaccredited institution was a featured actor in the diploma-mill industry.

    Brownback said the governor's staff didn't spend much time examining Mann's scholarly record. His resume listed studies at the University of Maryland and the University of Devonshire.

    "The education was not a factor in his hiring," Brownback said.

    Under questioning, the governor said Mann should be judged by his performance as a state government leader in Topeka.

    Brownback joked that he wished Mann possessed a degree from Kansas State University, where the governor graduated before completing law school at The University of Kansas.

    Mann submitted his resignation Tuesday afternoon, and Brownback accepted it. The search for a new state chief information technology officer was immediately reopened, a spokeswoman for the governor said.

    "Please accept my sincerest apology," Mann said in the resignation letter. "I wish you and all Kansans nothing but the best as you strive to bring excellence to Kansas' information technology systems."

    Mann, of St. Augustine, Fla., started work Oct. 31 in the $150,000-a-year job overseeing computer projects and systems for the executive branch. All state agencies, except the Kansas Board of Regents, were directed by Brownback to report to Mann.

    Mann most recently worked at Service Brands International in 2010, but he resigned after less than one year in that job amid a philosophical dispute with colleagues at the company.

    Before the resignation was submitted, Brownback said he understood many people in the information technology sector performed at a high level without earning a college degree. The governor, a Kansas agriculture secretary from 1986 to 1993, said his technology specialist at that agency did a fine job without a diploma.

    "My IT guy was a former meat cutter," the governor said.


  • ICE Raids University of Northern Virginia Offices: School prohibited from accepting foreign students, Jackie Bensen, Washington D.C., NBC Washington, July 29, 2011.


    Dozens of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided offices at the University of Northern Virginia's Annandale campus Thursday.

    The University of Northern Virginia is an unaccredited, for-profit private university that calls itself the most popular American university for students from India. Thousands of students are registered at three locations in northern Virginia.

    Agents have removed boxes of documents from a building on Little River Turnpike where the university leases two suites.

    The university temporarily can't accept any foreign students, reads a notice posted on the door of the offices. UNVA students must leave the country immediately if they are unable “to continue to attend classes and maintain their active status in a manner required by federal government regulations,” the notice reads.

    “Today, officials from ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) served University of Northern Virginia officials with a Notice of Intent to Withdraw (NOIW) UNVA’s authorization to admit foreign students,” read a statement released by ICE spokeswoman Cori W. Bassett.

    The school was told it can no longer participate in that program, but no specific reason was disclosed.

    No charges have been filed nor people arrested but the school is being investigated to see whether it conforms to federal regulations for the administration of student visas. Those regulations were tightened after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    The school is not closed, and students can attend class.

    Foreign-born students at the campus Thursday said they have attended classes in the building and earned degrees from the school. One said the school helps students get their student visas.

    If the investigation discovers the school improperly handled student visas, the school could face severe penalties.


  • Trinity University sues online school to protect its trademark, Guillermo Contreras, My SA, July 23, 2011.


    Trinity University is suing an entity that offers online degrees, accusing it of trademark infringement.

    The San Antonio liberal arts and sciences university seeks a federal court order barring Trinity Learning Foundation from using “Trinity University” on its website or using that name to promote its programs.

    The suit was filed Thursday in San Antonio

    Trinity Learning Foundation, headquartered in Delaware, did not respond to requests for comment.

    “Because they are using our name, we feel it's an infringement of our registered trademark and can lead to trademark dilution,” said Mary Denny, associate director of communications for Trinity University. “We're very proud of our reputation.”

    Trinity Learning Foundation's website says it offers graduate information technology degrees, a master's in business administration and bachelor's degrees in nursing and health management, among others.

    But some of those degrees are offered under “Trinity University” on the foundation's website, including degrees the San Antonio institution doesn't offer. It's “a complete infringement and could be damaging to our reputation,” Denny said.

    This isn't the first time Trinity University has battled over its name. In 2007, it settled a trademark lawsuit with Trinity College in Washington over that entity's attempt to change its name to Trinity University.

    Additionally, Trinity University reached a settlement in 2004 with a diploma mill then known as Trinity College & University.

    That deal ended a lawsuit in which the university said Trinity College & University — registered in the British Virgin Islands but with purported offices in Louisiana — infringed on the Trinity University trademark.


  • College records don't match principal's resume, Adam Weintraub, Mercury News, San Jose, California, July 20, 2011.


    SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The private school principal accused of inappropriately touching young girls has decades of education experience, but some colleges and a state commission said Wednesday their records don't match the credentials he has claimed.

    Robert Adams is principal of Creative Frontiers School, which was closed by police and state regulators Monday amid allegations that he inappropriately touched female students over a 15-year period. He has not been arrested or charged and held a news conference Wednesday to declare his innocence.

    On a resume filed as part of a 1999 bankruptcy case, Adams stated he had earned a master's degree and received state education credentials at several California universities. But officials at those schools and the state credentialing body said Wednesday their records do not match the claims.

    Adams' attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment. A telephone number associated with the address for Adams' home in Folsom, another Sacramento suburb, was disconnected.

    Adams and his wife, Saundra, filed a petition in December 1998 for protection from creditors while they reorganized their finances under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The filing said the school in the Sacramento suburb of Citrus Heights was damaged by "catastrophic floods" in 1995, and the school was sued for wrongful termination the same year.

    Slow repairs and heavy legal expenses hurt the school's finances and enrollment, the couple said in documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Sacramento.

    As part of the case, Robert Adams filed a resume as evidence of his experience as an educator. The document said he graduated from California State University, Northridge with two bachelor's degrees and a California teaching credential.

    CSU Northridge spokeswoman Carmen Ramos Chandler confirmed Wednesday that Adams received a bachelor's degree in child development in 1972 and another in psychology in 1975. But she said the school had no record of a teaching credential issued to him.

    Databases at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing show no record of any educator credential—for teaching or administration—issued to Adams, spokeswoman Erin Sullivan said. Such a credential is not required to teach in a private school in California.

    The resume also stated that Adams attended graduate school and obtained a California administrative credential in early childhood education from the University of California, Los Angeles. It said he completed a master's degree from Pacific Oaks Teachers' College in Pasadena, in "coordination" with UCLA and the now-defunct University of Beverly Hills.

    UCLA spokeswoman Claudia Luther said the school could find no record that he had attended, although she said the records are not perfect. Helen Williams, a spokeswoman at the UCLA Extension program, also said there was no match in its records to any student with Adams' name and age.

    A representative of Pacific Oaks College, Matt Nehmer, said its registrar's records show that a Robert B. Adams attended the school in 1980, but not that he had graduated.

    News reports from the 1990s described the University of Beverly Hills as a nontraditional school that awarded degrees based on life experience, lacked accreditation for at least part of the time it operated and was described as a "diploma mill" by some critics. The school closed in 1986.


  • New cop fired over diploma questions: Authorities say degree he received was from unaccredited college, Paul Nelson, Times Union, July 20, 2011.


    SCHENECTADY -- Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as new police recruit, John Laviano was fired Tuesday because the online college where he apparently received credit for life experiences is not accredited.

    "It caught everyone by surprise," Police Chief Mark Chaires said Tuesday when asked about the embarrassing episode, which apparently came to light after a local media outlet raised questions about Ashwood University, the college where Laviano majored in criminal justice after graduating in 2010 from Guilderland High School.

    "This was just an honest mistake," Chaires said.

    Chaires emphasized that Laviano, 22, who also served in the Army in Afghanistan, was not trying to circumvent the system and never attempted to "mislead" city and police officials.

    He was one of five recruits to take the oath of office during a City Hall swearing-in ceremony that was to start a six-month stint at the police academy Wednesday. Laviano could not immediately reached for comment.

    Chaires said the department relies on the "generally very thorough" county civil service commission to do background checks to make sure the college prospective recruits attended is accredited, a prerequisite for taking the civil service exam.

    In fact, the chief stressed that civil service has in the past prevented potential recruits from taking the test because the school they attended did not meet the prescribed standards.

    "We operated under the assumption that he had been certified by civil service," Chaires said.

    The department's own more rigorous background search also failed to flag the school.

    "We'll learn from this and move on," said Chaires, noting that in the future they will double-check a prospective recruit's schooling.

    In most cases, there is hardly ever a question of whether area two- or four-year schools, such as Siena College or Schenectady County Community College have the proper credentials.

    There is conflicting information online about whether Ashwood is a so-called diploma mill.

    One website seeks to dispel that notion and even offers testimonials to back up that contention.

    Under the heading "An introduction to Ashwood University," the website,, states the school "provides students with authentic and accredited degrees on the basis of life and/or work experience," offers internationally recognized and widely accepted degrees and diplomas, and provides lifetime credential verification service to students.

    Specifically, the web site states it is accredited from World Online Degrees Education Accrediting Commission and the Board of Online Universities Accreditation.

    Still, others warn would-be students to stay away because the school is a "scam."


  • Sch'tady police recruit fired amid questionable college degree, Beth Wurtmann, News Channel 13,, July 21, 2011.


    SCHENECTADY - Police Chief Mark Chaires admitted Wednesday that mistakes were made when hiring recruit John Laviano.

    "This is just something that fell through the cracks," Chaires told NewsChannel 13.

    Laviano, a 22-year-old decorated Army veteran who has seen combat in Afghanistan, was sworn in Monday with four other recruits. But when questions were raised about his online college degree from Ashwoord University, Laviano was fired two days later.

    "I think what happened is just that this university is somebody that carries it to an unethical and dishonest and illegal extremes," said Chaires, suggesting that the university is a diploma mill.

    The website for Ashwood University advertises the chance to get accredited life experience for your online degree, and that for $725, a student can even earn a degree in 15 days.

    "Just because they say they're accredited, doesn't mean they are officially accredited," said William Stewart, a vice president with Excelsior College, a distance learning institution based in the Capital Region. He said students should do their homework before getting an online degree to make sure its programs and the accrediting body are officially recognized.

    "Most employers will say you need a degree from an accredited institution so if it's not, you may run into a situation like this gentleman did," Stewart said.

    "John Laviano is a really good kid he didn't try to misrepresent anything it was a honest mistake, its not police corruption," Chaires said.

    The Police Chief said the former recruit showed a lot of promise, and that if he someday gets a legitimate degree, the department will consider hiring him again.

    NewsChannel 13 was not able to reach Laviano for comment Wednesday.

    A spokesperson for Schenectady County said because of the degree problem, Laviano should also not have been allowed to take the Civil Service exam, and they are looking at the process to see what happened.

    You can check out your university at these links:

    U.S. Department of Education:


  • Look who Obama's hired for cybersecurity team: Ex-Clinton staffer 'lost' thousands of White House e-mails, booted by DHS for faking credentials, World Net Daily, July 18, 2011.


    An elite team of computer technicians assembled by the Obama administration to protect Pentagon networks from cyberattack shockingly includes a former Clinton official who "lost" thousands of archived emails under subpoena and who more recently left the Department of Homeland Security under an ethical cloud related to her qualifications, WND has learned.

    The administration in May quietly hired Laura Callahan for a sensitive post at the U.S. Cyber Command, a newly created agency set up to harden military networks as part of an effort to prevent a "cyberspace version of Pearl Harbor."

    The move raises doubts about the administration's vetting process for sensitive security positions. In 2004, Callahan was forced to resign from Homeland Security after a congressional investigation revealed she committed résumé fraud and lied about her computer credentials.

    Investigators found that Callahan paid a diploma mill thousands of dollars for her bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees in computer science. She back-dated the degrees, all obtained between 2000 and 2001, to appear as if she earned them in 1993, 1995 and 2000, respectively. She landed the job of deputy DHS chief information officer in 2003...

    Previously, as a White House computer supervisor, Callahan threatened computer workers to keep quiet about an embarrassing server glitch that led to the loss of thousands of archived emails covered by federal subpoenas pertaining to multiple Clinton scandals.

    Former co-workers say they're shocked that Callahan passed a security background check and landed another sensitive post inside the federal government.

    "She's a security risk," said a government computer specialist. "I don't know how she got clearance."

    "We're fuming about it," said another federal employee. "Knowing her, I don't see how she could ever be 100-percent honest."

    A CyberCom spokesman said Callahan could not be interviewed and did not want her "name in public." Asked for Callahan's title, he claimed such information was "personal."

    CyberCom, which began operations last year, is part of the U.S. Strategic Command located in Fort Meade, Md.

    The Defense Department last week revealed it recently suffered a massive cyberattack, even as it announced a new strategy to actively combat online threats to national security.

    Laura Crabtree Callahan testifying before the House Government Reform Committee in the Project X White House e-mail scandal investigation.

    In March, hackers working for a foreign government broke into a Pentagon contractor's computer system and stole 24,000 files. Previous cyberattacks have been blamed on China or Russia.

    A new Pentagon study stresses the need to fortify network firewalls against enemy hackers. Callahan will be part of that effort at CyberCom, which will lead day-to-day defense and protection of all Defense Department networks.

    "She's a dubious hire, to put it charitably," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a government watchdog in Washington that sued the Clinton White House to retrieve missing emails.

    As WND first reported, several Northrop Grumman contractors working on the White House computer system testified in early 2000 that Callahan (née Laura Crabtree) threatened to jail them if they talked about the "Project X" email scandal even to their spouses.

    One technician, Robert Haas, said she warned him "there will be a jail cell with your name on it" if he breathed a word about the glitch to anybody outside their office.

    Chip Sparks, a White House programmer, recounted a run-in he had with Callahan in 1997. After questioning a technical decision she made, he said she wrote him a threatening note.

    "Please be advised I will not tolerate any further derogatory comments from you about my knowledge, qualifications and/or professional competence," Callahan blasted Sparks in a March 3, 1997, e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by WND.

    Callahan had to do some quick backpedaling after her House testimony. The day after she testified, she sent an affidavit to the House Government Reform Committee, stating: "I wish to clarify that I did discuss e-mail issues with the Department of Justice attorneys in connection with currently pending civil litigation," referring to a lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch. She had denied such contacts at the hearing.

    Callahan left the White House under an ethical cloud, only to land a top position elsewhere in the Clinton administration. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman made her deputy chief information officer at her agency, and director of its information technology center.

    While there, she oversaw the development of the Privacy Assessment Model, which agencies were to use to better protect sensitive personal data managed by the government.

    "It's hard for me, having worked with this individual, to believe that she was able to come in there, do what she did, leave the things in the condition that she left them in and then fly right into an SES (senior executive service) position at the Labor Department," Sparks said.

    "I mean, there's political favors there," he added. "It's writ large."

    House Government Reform Committee investigators at the time said Labor knew Callahan got her degree from a diploma mill, yet still employed her. They found that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management tipped Labor off to her questionable credentials.

    "We have requested the Homeland Security IG to look at why flags that had been raised about her educational qualifications in her personnel file at the Labor Department were not taken further," said House Government Reform Committee spokesman Dave Marin at the time.

    He told WND that the government certainly cannot risk hiring someone with "fraudulent credentials" to head a senior position in an area as "sensitive as homeland security" computer operations and communications.

    Calls to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management seeking comment about Callahan's latest hiring were not returned.


  • Degree of scrutiny for Dave Serrano: New UT jobs posted requiring bachelor's, but baseball didn't, Andrew Gribble, Knoxville News-Sentinel, Knoxville, Tennessee, July 12, 2011.


    Dave Serrano hasn't shied away from addressing the scrutiny of his academic credentials in the past, and he certainly wasn't planning to when he interviewed to become Tennessee's new baseball coach last month.

    He said he had nothing to hide, and the members of UT's search committee felt the same way.

    "I understand when you're working with higher education that it's going to be an issue," said Serrano, speaking with the News Sentinel during last week's baseball media opportunity at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. "I never tried to mask anything or hide anything."

    As an assistant at Cal State Fullerton in 2003, Serrano obtained a bachelor's degree from The Trinity College and University. Classified by many as a "diploma mill," the institution is not accredited and will award the degrees for "life experience." According to its website, the The Trinity College and University is registered in Dover, Del., and based out of Spain.

    Following a 2007 season in which he was named Baseball America's Coach of the Year for taking UC Irvine to the College World Series, Serrano emerged as a front-runner for the coaching vacancy at Oregon. Shortly after Serrano interviewed, a Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard story raised questions about the validity of his degree.

    After Oregon athletic director Pat Kilkenny told the newspaper he was "reviewing" Serrano's degree, Serrano, who also interviewed at UT during that time, withdrew his name from consideration and ultimately landed at Fullerton.

    Serrano, who spent two years at Cerritos College and one at Fullerton as a player, said he was urged by his "superiors" at Fullerton to finish the work toward his degree. The Trinity College and University was "the way they felt he could do it."

    "Obviously, sometimes you make choices in life and there's scrutiny out there," Serrano said. "I would prefer to be judged by the people and the players over all my years of my coaching career, what I've done for people as a coach and a mentor and how I've led them in life and being successful.

    "People could judge my education, but I know when it comes to coaching and leading young men, I feel like I have a doctorate in that area."

    Shortly after former coach Todd Raleigh was relieved of his duties in May, UT, on its online job board, requested that its new baseball coach possessed a bachelor's degree, but it did not require one. That caveat in the job description was atypical of the school's previous and present requirements for its coaching positions.

    Currently, UT is looking to hire three assistant coaches - two for men's track and field and one for volleyball. All three positions require a bachelor's degree and prefer a Master's, according to the job descriptions on UT's official website.

    UT women's athletic director Joan Cronan, who, as interim vice chancellor of athletics, spearheaded the baseball coaching search after Mike Hamilton's resignation, said she wasn't involved in the hiring process when the job post was drafted.

    "We did our due diligence and looked at (academic progress rates) and grade-point averages," Cronan said. "His history in there was as high as any of the coaches we looked at. The importance of graduating his players was very important.

    "I thought he was the best total package for Tennessee."

    In Serrano's final two years at Cal State Fullerton, his teams notched back-to-back APR scores of 939, 14 above the benchmark set by the NCAA. Only once, his first year at Fullerton, did a Serrano-coached team score below 925.

    "I want the proof to be in the pudding with how many kids are graduated from this university and what we're doing with these kids and what they do when they get out of here," Serrano said. "And I don't just mean Major League Baseball."

    Inheriting a program that was hit with APR-related sanctions during Raleigh's tenure, Serrano doesn't exactly have much room for error when it pertains to academics. With a hire that she considers to be a "home run" at the helm, Cronan said the program is in good hands with Serrano, no matter how he acquired his degree.

    "Anybody who knows Joan Cronan knows that I firmly believe that they're students first and athletes second," Cronan said. "It was important that we hire somebody that academics was important to them. At the end of the day, I felt that academics were very important to Dave Serrano."


  • University of Wales must review link-ups, advises QAA: The higher education watchdog the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has advised the University of Wales to review all its partnerships with colleges worldwide, BBC, United Kingdom, BC News Wales, June 22, 2011.


    It investigated three of the university's link-ups with foreign colleges which shed light on the shortcomings of a system in which academic staff from Wales travel across the globe to vet, validate and moderate overseas links.

    In response, a University of Wales spokesman said the institution was making "many transitional and transformative measures".

    "In order to continue to safeguard standards and the student experience the University of Wales will, in partnership with its proposed merger institutions, develop a new international strategy which is embedded within Wales," he said.

    QAA has, in line with its policy, published a statement on its findings and recommendations on its website.

    Here are excerpts from the report:

    Accademia Italiana, Bangkok

    Reason for investigation: BBC Wales alleged the college was operating illegally, according to Thai authorities.

    "The concerns team wished to investigate whether any advice had been taken on legal or financial matters, since the University had provided no papers that indicated that such investigations had taken place.

    "However, when the concerns team met with the vetter in a group of Validation Unit staff, he had no memory of having made a visit to Accademia Italiana in Bangkok."

    "There was no investigation of the legal status of Accademia Italiana in Bangkok at any time."

    "From later correspondence with the university, it has been confirmed that the university relied on assurances from Accademia Italiana in Bangkok that they had 'verbal confirmation' of the approval of the Thai authorities, but not 'approval in writing'.

    "The concerns team concluded that the university's vetting of its partner in Thailand was inadequate... The 'validations' carried out were flawed".

    "In the matter of approval by the Thai authorities, it appears that the University satisfied itself with oral assurances by Accademia Italiana that approval to operate from the Thai government had been secured, with no primary written evidence from the Thai authorities themselves."

    Fazley International College, Malaysia

    Reason for investigation: BBC Wales alleged it was being run by a pop star with two bogus degrees.

    "No appraisal of the college's accounts", "no financial advice was sought", "no legal advice was sought on the capacity of the partner to contract".

    "There is no particular reason to believe in this case had such investigations been carried out, they would have discovered anything that would have undermined the university's confidence...However, this must be regarded as merely good luck".

    "The pro-forma tells the university that 'Dr' Yaakob holds a DBA from 'the European Business School, UK'.

    "There is a 'European Business School, UK': it is part of Regents College, and awards degrees from the Open University.

    "It does not award the degree of DBA. It is a perfectly respectable institution, but 'Dr' Yaakob certainly did not do a DBA there.

    "'Dr' Yaakob is not buried in the small print... (the university) had and missed the opportunity to be circumspect about the management and owners of Fazley International College".

    The concerns team found no sign that as managing director 'Dr' Fadzli Yaakob had any direct influence on the standards of programmes of study validated by the university.

    "However... more 'academic' due diligence might have caused the university, if not to reject the connection with Fazley International Colelge, at least to manage it in a way that gave less room for ridicule".

    Turning Point Business School, Singapore

    Reason for investigation: Complaints from students. Unnanounced sale of the school by one set of owners who had problems with debts and subsequent disappearance of the second owners one year later, leaving the students unsupported.

    The QAA say that "to judge the financial or legal standing of a potential partner, a committee of academics needs professional advice from an accountant or a lawyer; probably, in the case of an overseas partner, a lawyer from the country in question".

    In this case University of Wales vice-chancellor, Professor Marc Clement, considered it "sufficient" that one member of the validation board was "qualified as an accountant".

    "The university apparently took no legal advice, either in the UK or Singapore, as to the status of the owners."

    "The university had not briefed staff involved in 'vetting' on the status of the investigations and judgments they made; and members of the committees charged with making recommendations or decisions did not have a common view as to what they were deciding upon."

    The second owners, who later disappeared leaving the students in the lurch, were not checked out either.

    "The background of the owners was not investigated, and no information about financial stability was sought. No professional advice was taken on either matter."

    The university appoints moderators who must visit partner institutions twice a year for the first five years and once a year thereafter.

    Initially, moderators failed to make any visits to this college.

    These were replaced by moderators who did make the requisite visits, one of whom had been assigned to 14 different colleges simultaneously even though a moderator is only supposed to be assigned a maximum of five institutions at any time.

    "In the light of the disappearance of the first owners, and the long list of unfulfilled demands made by moderators and Validation Unit staff in March 2010, the university's decision to accept the assertions of the new owners at face value... seems culpably credulous".


  • 33 diploma mill suspects nabbed in Beijing, Zhang Xuanchen, Shanghai Daily, June 20, 2011.


    BEIJING police have arrested 33 suspects for allegedly selling fake diplomas and degree certificates and swindling 7.97 million yuan (US$ 1.23 million) out of 339 people, including nearly 200 senior company executives.

    Police said victims paid prices ranging from 20,000 yuan to 190,000 yuan for academic credentials from bogus universities with names similar to prestigious colleges overseas, Beijing Times reported today.

    In most cases, no class and test was required before victims were handed over diplomas and degree certificates that appeared authentic with embossed stamps showing recognition from a phony college and China's Ministry of Education.


  • Grand jury critical of policies in El Dorado Sheriff's Office, Carlos Alcalá, Sacramento, california, Sacramento Bee, June 19, 2011.


    The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office needs to fix its treatment of women in the department and prevent deputies from using phony educational degrees to gain pay increases, according to the El Dorado County grand jury's report released Friday.

    The grand jury's 2010-11 report focused three of its 12 sections on the Sheriff's Office.

    A newly elected sheriff, John D'Agostini, took over the department at the beginning of the year.

    The report's section on gender bias in the department outlined a female staffing level far below national averages, and a pattern of gender bias complaints that jumped in 2010.

    Roughly 5 percent of sworn officers are women, according to the report. It contrasted El Dorado's level to a national average of 12.8 percent in communities of similar sizes.

    The department saw 12 gender bias complaints filed in 2010, double the number for 2008 and 2009 combined, the report said.

    Six of the complaints were upheld, yet in half those cases, "individuals did not have records of disciplinary action related to the complaints in their files in the El Dorado County Human Resources Office," the report said.

    It also noted a pair of discrimination lawsuits had been filed against the department by female employees.

    The report called on the department to give women more opportunities to work in job areas considered critical to advancement and to recruit women and minorities for future openings.

    Harassment policies need to be better communicated and enforced as well, the report said.

    With respect to educational attainment, the report noted that five sworn officers, including a lieutenant, had gained pay increases – known as educational incentive pay – based on diplomas from questionable sources.

    "One officer applied for entrance into Richardson University on August 20, 2004, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice only 27 days later, after completing 22 classes," according to the grand jury's investigation.

    The body's report noted that the district attorney has not found enough evidence to prosecute these cases, in part because Sheriff's Office policies were vague and some evidence has been destroyed.

    The grand jury called on the Sheriff's Office to cease accepting "diploma mill" credentials and to bring educational compensation in line with what officers receive in other nearby jurisdictions.

    The third section of the report to focus on the Sheriff's Office acknowledged cost-cutting in the office, but suggested the department could save more.

    It recommended tightening the use of take-home vehicles, reducing duplicate phones – desk and cell – for individual employees and putting civilians in some positions currently filled by sworn officers.

    The civil grand jury is a body of citizens charged with looking into government operations.

    The grand jury will present its full report to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

    Elected officials who are served with reports have 60 days to respond. Non-elected officials have 90 days.


  • Troopers show degrees of dishonesty, Shawn Vestal, Spokane, Spokesman-Review, June 17, 2011.


    When Washington State Patrol Trooper Daniel Mann talks about his days at Berkley – if he ever does – it's probably nothing like you imagine.

    No free-speech protests or sit-ins. No dropping acid and sitting in a tree. No examination of the great pinko texts. Or any texts. Not to mention no lectures, no quizzes, no classes.

    Mann's "Berkley" experience involved a single 11-page paper written in the fall of 1998, titled "Drugs Should Not Be Legalized." This was his "final" paper, as well as his "initial" paper, as well as his "only" paper. He sent a couple grand to the "University of Berkley" in Michigan and waited for his diploma to show up.

    Then he started collecting a bigger paycheck for his educational advancements.

    Nothing wrong with that, right?

    Well, that depends. The information above comes from the scathing conclusions of an investigation into Mann's actions in 2009, in which Assistant Chief James Lever recommends his firing.

    "I believe Mann knowingly submitted a phony academic degree from the University of Berkley to the WSP for increased pay and promotional points," Lever wrote. "This act clearly constitutes a violation of the rules, regulations and policies of the WSP. … It is simply not reasonable to believe that he did not realize that a Berkley degree was not legitimate. He knew what he was doing was wrong and the facts of the case clearly demonstrate continued attempts to both cover up and prevent any scrutiny of his actions."

    But the State Patrol, after moving initially to fire Mann and several others, chickened out and gave them suspensions of several days. This followed the 10-month paid vacation while they were being investigated. Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said the discipline was based on the notion that the troopers had used bad judgment, not intentionally defrauded the state. They stopped receiving the extra pay and repaid more than $50,000 – Mann alone repaid nearly $12,000.

    The next move for the Diploma Mill Gang was obvious: Sue the state.

    The suit – call it Chutzpah v. Common Decency – was filed in King County Superior Court in December by Mann and four other troopers. They allege that the State Patrol defamed them in some public statements – as well as in some of the minor misunderstandings the patrol didn't clear up. It takes a lot of huevos to do what Mann did and then sue the state alleging, among other things, "outrage."

    The investigation into the diplomas followed the news in May 2008 that dozens of government employees had purchased counterfeit degrees from a Spokane diploma mill. While the five troopers didn't buy their diplomas from the Spokane operation, they purchased them from unaccredited online "institutions" that award diplomas based on life experience.

    A prosecutor said no crime was committed, but Lever's report identified three "proven" violations of the patrol's codes of conduct and ethics. And what the patrol said about Mann publicly is nice and friendly compared to the report. A few examples:

    • "It is a proven fact that University of Berkley is a diploma mill. Mann had every obligation to recognize what he was representing as a college degree was indeed a fake and invalid by any reasonable measure."

    • "Despite never having taken a class, read a book, or taken a test, Mann argued that he believed his degree was legitimate. It is absurd to believe that an 11-page research paper could be evaluated and graded to determine a person's qualification to receive a four-year degree. It would not even be credible for a single upper division college course (one quarter) to simply require a single 11-page research paper without any additional reading, lectures, tests, or additional assignments."

    • "Mann's deceptive behavior demonstrates the clear intent to mislead and deceive the department."

    • "One primary function of a narcotics detective, that Mann performed for several years, is to constantly test information to determine reliability and credibility of information they receive. For me to believe Mann was completely duped by an Internet website is simply too much to ask."

    • "Mann's dishonest and unethical actions can simply not be tolerated."

    Of course, they have been tolerated. The State Patrol still issues a paycheck to Mann, who catches drunken drivers here in Spokane.

    I feel a personal connection to Mann's educational experiences, because of my own. I dropped out of college my first go-round, then went back to Eastern Washington University as an adult with a full-time job. It took a lot of work and cost a lot of money, and I'm glad I did it. I didn't get a raise or anything, but it was invaluable.

    Maybe that's something you have to experience to appreciate.

    "It appears to the reviewer that Mann questions the real value of a legitimate bachelor's degree and therefore felt he deserved the same reward as those who actually went to school and earned a degree," the report says. "Had Mann actually gone to school, studied, and learned his way toward a four-year degree, I believe he would have a completely different perspective."


  • ‘Psychologist' collected more than $12,000 from five clients, court hears, Carola Vyhnak, Toronto, Canada Toronto Star, June 15, 2011.


    A so-called doctor fraudulently collected a total of more than $12,000 from five clients who mistakenly believed he was a qualified psychologist, court has heard.

    Gregory Carter deceived his victims, most of whom were involved in child custody cases, by misrepresenting his credentials in his Whitby practice, Crown Attorney Michael Gillen told Oshawa court on Wednesday.

    Carter, 64, is a psychological associate, which is a step below a psychologist. He has pleaded not guilty to five counts of fraud under $5,000.

    Last year, the College of Psychologists of Ontario found Carter guilty of professional misconduct for straying beyond his capabilities in diagnosing a father, whom he never met, with "narcissistic personality disorder."

    Carter, who frequently testified in family court, claimed he had a doctorate in psychology but the college didn't recognize his credentials and licensed him only as a psychological associate, Gillen said.

    One of his alleged victims, who paid $1,650 for therapy sessions for his granddaughter's behavioural problems, testified that Carter identified himself as a psychologist who specialized in children.

    David Bulmer, who subsequently lost custody of the child in a court case that used a report by Carter, said the term "psychological associate" never came up. Had he known Carter wasn't a registered psychologist, he never would have used him, Bulmer said.

    Carter has a legitimate master's degree, but his Ph.D. is from Pacific Western University in Hawaii, which the U.S. government has denounced as a "diploma mill."

    The trial continues.


  • Hidden cameras catch sex offender posing as doctor, Jeff Chirico, Atlanta, Georgia: CBS Atlanta, June 8, 2011.


    ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) - A CBS Atlanta hidden camera investigation exposed a registered sex offender posing as a psychologist. It is the second time CBS Atlanta found John Bacon, 41, of DeKalb County working without a required professional license.

    "I've practiced every form of psychology there is," claimed Bacon to an undercover CBS Atlanta producer posing as a patient.

    Bacon and the producer met at a restaurant.

    Bacon told the producer that he has been practicing psychology for twenty years and made his first million when he was 21 years old.

    Bacon's outlandish claims continued. "I am licensed, certified, bonded, insured," said Bacon.

    In an online profile, Bacon is listed as "Dr. J. Olis Bacon." The word "Psychologist" appears under his name.

    "I do psychology because I like to help people," said Bacon to the producer.

    "I've got this gift. After five minutes of talking to you, I can pretty much tell what kind of person you are."

    Bacon is listed on the Georgia Bureau of Investigation website as a registered sex offender. He was pleaded guilty in 1994 to charges of child molestation and aggravated sodomy. He was also convicted of sex crimes against a child while in the Navy in 1990.

    In November, CBS Atlanta found Bacon working as an unlicensed plumber after the state professional licensing board had ordered him to stop.

    Bacon is not allowed to work as a psychologist because he does not have a state-issued license.

    Dr. Kip Matthews, a licensed psychologist and educator with the Georgia Psychological Association, said he is disturbed by the undercover video we showed him. He said it appeared Bacon committed numerous ethical violations. He said he is concerned for Bacon's patients. "Unfortunately, individuals who prey on potential victims do have good social skills. They come across in a very engaging, personal way that pulls you in," said Matthews.

    Matthews said he was particularly concerned with Bacon's supposed assessment of the patient's risk of suicide.

    "It is just clinically inappropriate," said Matthews.

    Investigative reporter Jeff Chirico interrupted the meeting to ask Bacon the Tough Questions.

    "You're a registered sex offender. Do you think you should be operating as a psychologist?" asked Chirico.

    "I have no problem with it," responded Bacon.

    Bacon claimed to have an online doctorate degree. CBS Atlanta learned that school is considered by some to be a diploma mill.

    Bacon insisted he is not going to hurt anyone.

    Since the interview, Bacon removed the word "psychologist" from his online profiles and replaced it with "hypnotherapist


  • Former Saratoga County Court psychologist pleads guilty to falsifying credentials, Lucian McCarty, Saratoga, Florida, The Saratogian, June 1, 2011.


    BALLSTON SPA — A man who worked for four years as a psychologist for the Saratoga County judicial system under allegedly false credentials pleaded guilty Friday, May 27 to first-degree offering a false instrument for filing, a felony in Saratoga County Court.

    Steven B. Feldman was under contract with Saratoga County Court from 2006 to 2010 to perform as a psychologist for the office of the public defender and Saratoga County Family Court where he evaluated people petitioning the court and people accused of crimes.

    Feldman pleaded guilty to only one of the four charges levied against him including two counts of first-degree falsifying business records and third-degree grand larceny. The initial indictment of Feldman alleged that Feldman "received payment checks from the county of Saratoga for psychologist services that he was not licensed to perform."

    The case was prosecuted by Clinton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Timothy Blatchly and was presided over by Clinton County Acting Supreme Court Judge Kevin K. Ryan. They were called in after several Saratoga County Court officials recused themselves from the case because of personal involvement in cases Feldman had worked on.

    Blatchley said the guilty plea to the one count is "in satisfaction of all four charges."

    "Our main concern was getting a felony conviction," said Blatchley. He said Feldman did have some legitimate licenses, but "he is not a psychiatrist or a psychologist," and a felony conviction for that crime would "absolutely," jeopardize his license.

    "We wanted to make sure he wasn't out there doing this kind of stuff again," he said.

    Feldman is scheduled to be sentenced July 25. There were no sentencing conditions accompanying his guilty plea. "It is up to the court to decide," said Blatchley.

    While Blatchley said Feldman could face up to 1-1/3 to four years in prison, he does not expect him to see the inside of a cell.

    "He is in his sixties, in the mid-stages of Parkinson's disease and given the charge jail probably isn't appropriate," he said. "That is what the judge will decide."

    The judge has requested a pre-sentencing-report from law enforcement, probation and county officials outlining Feldman's crimes to use in the sentencing.

    According to Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III at the time of the original indictment—before he had recused himself — Feldman claimed to have degrees and certifications that were later found to be fabricated as well as a degree from Hamilton University, a university that was described as a "diploma mill" in a "60 Minutes" report in 2004.

    As an alleged Hamilton University alum, Feldman joins the ranks of Laura Callahan, the former senior director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who purchased bachelor's and master's degrees from the college and used them to further her career in government, according to the report. It described the college as an office with a few clerical workers and no instructors.


  • Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY01) submits House Resolution 1758, the "Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act," to the 112th Congress, May 5, 2011.


    Click here to read the text of the bill, as downloaded from the United States Govenment Printing Office..


  • Bay Area university president indicted for student visa fraud scheme, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Oakland, California, May 2, 2011.


    A federal grand jury here has indicted the president of a Pleasanton, Calif., university on 33-criminal counts, charging her with an array of violations, including visa fraud, money laundering and alien harboring, as a result of a two-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

    Tri-Valley University President Susan Xiao-Ping Su, 41, who also served as the school's chief executive officer, is accused of engaging in a two-year scheme to defraud the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by submitting phony documents in support of Tri-Valley University's applications to admit foreign nationals on student visas. The indictment further alleges that after obtaining such approvals, Su fraudulently issued visa-related documents to student aliens in exchange for "tuition and fees."

    Su was taken into custody Monday morning at her Pleasanton, Calif., home by HSI special agents. She made her initial appearance here in federal court shortly after her arrest.

    In carrying out the scheme, Su is accused of making multiple false representations to DHS through Tri-Valley University's use of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which the U.S. government uses to monitor the "F-1" student visa program. Through her false representations, Su was able to unlawfully obtain and issue F-1 visa-related documents without regard to the students' academic qualifications or intent to pursue a course of study required to maintain a lawful immigration status.

    According to the indictment, Su admitted and maintained foreign students in exchange for tuition and other payments. In furtherance of the F-1 visa scheme, Su also allegedly harbored multiple Tri-Valley University student-employees to assist her in making the false representations to SEVIS. The indictment further alleges the defendant engaged in multiple money laundering transactions totaling more than $3.2 million using proceeds she derived from the visa fraud scheme.

    "Today's indictment alleges a visa fraud scheme through which the defendant accrued millions of dollars and took advantage of others' eagerness to come to the United States," said United States Attorney Melinda Haag. "My office remains committed to working closely with ICE Homeland Security Investigations to identify and prosecute those who undermine the integrity of this country's immigration laws through fraud and for personal enrichment."

    "Student visas are intended to enable people from around the world to come to this country to enrich themselves with the wealth of educational opportunities available here," said ICE Director John Morton. "ICE is committed to protecting the integrity of that proud tradition and ensuring it is not corrupted by those seeking only to enrich themselves financially. ICE Homeland Security Investigations will aggressively pursue those who exploit America's legal immigration system solely for their personal gain."

    The "F-1" student visa program is designed to allow foreign nationals who are bona fide students to be admitted to the United States on a temporary basis to study at an approved school. F-1 students are admitted for a temporary period during which they are required to pursue a full course of study at an approved school. When a student stops pursuing a full course of study, the duration of status ends and the temporary period for which the individual was admitted expires. In administering the F-1 visa program, DHS relies on the representations made by the schools and students.

    The 33 counts contained in the indictment carry maximum penalties ranging from one to 20 years imprisonment. The charges include wire fraud; mail fraud; visa fraud and conspiracy to commit visa fraud; use of a false document; making false statements to a government agency; alien harboring; unauthorized access to a government computer and money laundering.

    The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Hartley M.K. West and Wade M. Rhyne with the aid of Janice Pagsanjan and Rania Ghawi.

    Please note, an indictment contains only allegations against an individual and, as with all defendants, Su must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


  • School official resigns amid Sun investigation into his college degrees: Deputy chief operating officer made $135,200 with degrees from unaccredited universities, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, April 28, 2011.


    A high-ranking city school official, whose resume includes degrees from institutions that require little or no classroom work and which academic watchdog groups have referred to as "diploma mills," resigned abruptly Thursday after questions about his credentials were raised by The Baltimore Sun.

    Kevin Seawright, deputy chief operating officer with an annual salary of $135,200, said he resigned his post to enter the private sector. Schools CEO Andrés Alonso revealed the resignation in an email to school system staff Thursday, saying that Seawright "worked tirelessly during my administration to improve our responsiveness to schools."

    Seawright's resignation from the position, which he has held since 2008, came one day after The Sun asked school officials to explain Seawright's academic credentials, which include a bachelor's degree in accounting from Rocklands University and a master's degree in business administration from Almeda University.

    Rocklands, which is believed to be based in the United Kingdom, and Almeda, which offers degrees based on "life experience," are not accredited or recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, according to a department spokeswoman.

    Because they are not accredited, they are not eligible for federal funds and are often not recognized for employment eligibility by public agencies. In addition, private agencies are not required to accept them for employment. Degrees from both universities have also been banned in several states.

    Almeda "is a diploma mill for sure, no doubt about it," said George Gollin, a board member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, an organization of degree-granting colleges and universities and national accreditation oversight body.

    "It should be a tremendous embarrassment to the Baltimore schools, and the person who vetted these things should really have their head on a plate," said Gollin, who is a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "This is pretty serious."

    The city school system said that while it could not comment on specific personnel issues, it believes that during the hiring process, a candidate's experience should be taken into consideration along with educational qualifications. A spokeswoman said that online degrees may meet requirements for some jobs.

    "As long as a person is honest about their credentials, and the value of their performance is proven, the online credentials might be appropriate for some high-ranking positions, but not others," said schools spokeswoman Edie House-Foster.

    "Clearly, they would not be appropriate for educational leadership positions," she said. "But they might have a different significance in the context of a person's experience for operational leadership positions. Ultimately, the question should be what can a person do to serve our kids."

    On Wednesday, The Sun asked Seawright about his education, and he provided copies of his degrees and transcripts from both universities. He said he included the information on his resume to the school system as well.

    Seawright said he had no reason to believe his degrees were illegitimate. He said Thursday that his resignation was not related to questions surrounding his academic record, adding that he was leaving the district to head project management at a private firm.

    "I appreciated working with the district, and I am moving on to the private sector," said Seawright shortly after his resignation. "I feel as though I have served the children of Baltimore to the best of my ability. It was pleasure serving under Dr. Alonso and [chief operating officer] Keith Scroggins and improving operational facilities for Baltimore City children."

    On Wednesday, Seawright defended his credentials and qualifications for the deputy chief operating officer position, saying they fit the job description — overseeing, among other things, school facilities, maintenance, transportation, food and nutrition. The deputy COO's responsibilities include managing up to 1,500 personnel, a $150 million operating budget and a $52 million capital budget. The deputy position is the only one of its kind throughout the school system.

    According to public personnel reports, Seawright was hired as a special assistant in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer on Jan. 24, 2006, at a salary of $96,000. Seawright had previously worked as the chief fiscal officer for Baltimore City's Department of Parks and Recreation for about six years.

    In 2008, he was promoted to the deputy chief operating officer at a salary of $130,000 and received a cost-of-living adjustment that brought him to his current salary of $135,200, city school officials said. City school officials said that Seawright was promoted based on his performance, not his credentials.

    Both positions require a bachelor's degree in business, management, finance or a related field, but a master's degree is preferred, according to the job descriptions. On Wednesday, Seawright said he believed he was "more than qualified to do the job."

    "There's nothing about accredited degrees in my job," he said. "It was based on experience, too."

    Rocklands University, where Seawright said he graduated in 1998, has no current website. A search of Internet archives yielded a website with no description of when the university operated or who operated it, nor any information on how to enroll or obtain a degree. The website also did not indicate if or when the university stopped operating.

    An inquiry to the college using an email address on the archived website, the only contact information available, resulted in a return error message.

    When asked why there was no record of Rocklands University, Seawright said, "It must have gone out of business."

    "When I got [the degree], they did exist," Seawright said. "I paid for the classes, and I don't know if it's accredited."

    The Nevis-based Almeda University, where Seawright said he obtained his master's degree in business administration in 2006, awards degrees after staff use a "reliable Prior Learning Assessment method to review your life experience, competencies, skills and knowledge to determine your level of mastery in your field," according to its website. "Based on this evaluation, you can earn a degree commensurate with your level of experience."

    Almeda University did not return phone calls and emails requesting information about its academic programs.

    The school converts life experience into coursework to provide a transcript. According to Seawright's transcript, his experience equated to 10 courses, including Quantitative Management; Law, Business and Society; and Economics of the Firm.

    The enrollment form notes that "college experience is not required to receive your college degree … but could be helpful if you do not have the work experience required by the degree you are seeking." A master's degree assessment costs $499, Almeda's website says.

    Degrees from Almeda University have been banned in several states, including Oregon, Michigan, Maine, Florida and Connecticut. Rocklands University degrees have also been banned in Oregon.

    Education experts said that both schools are clear examples of "diploma mills" — which have made national headlines as a result of employees in various public sectors receiving raises and promotions based on false degrees.

    Almeda University was also the source of a 2004 controversy after a New York man was able to obtain an associate's degree in childhood development for his 7-year-old dog. The university responded on its website that the man had created a false identity to prove a point.

    Several state government agencies indicated that Rocklands was operating out of the United Kingdom, and Seawright said he believed it was based in London. Philip Vine, an official with the United Kingdom Department for Education and Skills, responded to an inquiry about Rocklands University by pointing to the department's list of recognized university programs. The list did not include Rocklands University.

    "If Rocklands was a legitimate school at some point, or went belly up, I would expect some news story that said Rocklands went belly-up," Gollin said.

    "If Rocklands had changed its name, then I'd expect to see that, too. And I would certainly expect to see some information telling people who to contact to get transcripts from their alma mater."

    While Almeda University is accredited by private agencies, none of the accrediting bodies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The school also warns that "Almeda University is unable to guarantee acceptance of its degree programs in other postsecondary institutions; public sector employers will not recognize a degree accredited by a private accreditor."

    The Baltimore City school board approves appointments via a personnel, employment and payroll agenda, but the school system staff is responsible for vetting candidates to ensure they meet the necessary experience and education for a position, according to Neil Duke, the school board president.

    Duke said he could not comment on a personnel matter, but added that "the confirmation of a candidate's credentials and references has been a particular point of emphasis for the district during the last two years."

    In 2009, The Sun revealed that Brian D. Morris, a city school board president whom Alonso hired to an unadvertised, $175,000-a-year deputy CEO position, had not been awarded a degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, which was listed on his official resume.

    That detail, which resulted from two incomplete classes in his final semester and which Morris said he had been unaware of, was apparently not discovered by city and state officials on multiple levels.

    The district then pledged more scrutiny of credentials. The school system said it has checked the credentials and references of every person on a PEP report after establishing the protocol in July 2009.

    Seawright was hired before Alonso came to the district, and House-Foster said "it is possible that under a former administration the credentials were checked by [human resources]."

    She said that when he was promoted, because "his credentials had been vetted in the past, they were not vetted anew."

    Baltimore Sun reporter Yeganeh June Torbati contributed to this article.

    Oh, by the way-- I got a look at Seawright's "Rocklands University" transcript. It is nearly identical to one from a customer of the University Degree Program's fake school "Ashford University" from some years ago. (Note that the legitimate "Mount St. Clare College" was acquired by Bridgepoint Education, Inc. in 2005 and renamed Ashford University. That's an entirely different thing.)


  • The Right Decision: Guttenberg's Resignation Was Good For Germany , A Commentary by Roland Nelles, Spiegel Online International, March 1, 2011.


    The resignation of Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg marks a turning point for Germany's political culture. He may still make a comeback but he will never become chancellor.

    What a drama! Just the blink of an eye ago, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was Germany's most popular politician, the hero of his party, the darling of the tabloid press. He was even feted as a potential future chancellor. Now he's gone, evaporated in just 14 days, like a shooting star.

    For starters, Guttenberg's departure is a shame. A lot of hopes were pinned on him. He exuded charisma. He had the ability to explain policies and to get people interested in politics. The troops liked their defense minister and voters did too. What more could one expect from a politician?

    The Guttenberg case is nevertheless a blessing for Germany's future political culture. It has shown that politicians remain subject to high expectations regarding decency, honesty and reliability -- without exception.

    Politicians are role models. Guttenberg violated these standards and is now, very belatedly, paying the price. At first he didn't want to step down, believing that his popularity would save him. But in the end he had to learn that the same rules apply to him that apply to every other politician. He was driven out of office by a storm of outrage over the PhD he obtained through cheating: on the Internet, in the influential academic community and in the middle classes. Guttenberg and the chancellor who protected him for so long weren't able to withstand it. And that's how it should be.

    Departure Will Unleash Misunderstanding and Bitterness

    The Guttenberg case is a problem for the reputation of the political process. He's the second popular politician to step down in less than a year, after Horst Köhler quit as German president last May. Guttenberg's departure will trigger a lot of criticism and bitterness among the many people who are disenchanted with politics and who saw a kind of messiah in him.

    But Guttenberg himself has also contributed to fuelling these sentiments. In his resignation speech, he murmured about the "public and media attention" that had been concentrated so intensely on his person. He said that had created additional burdens for the soldiers in Germany's armed forces, the Bundeswehr. By saying that, Guttenberg concocted a legend of having been stabbed in the back that could soon be making the rounds amongst the chattering classes: Namely that a group of envious politicians and reporters in Berlin exerted so much pressure on the popular man that he was driven out of office. Or at least something like that.

    Guttenberg is a phenomenon. Many seem prepared to forgive any mistake he makes. They have, if you will, blind faith in him. The parties will eventually feel the rage of these voters -- perhaps during the next election or perhaps in a few years when the first right-wing populist party is founded. Something is brewing and it isn't good -- that much is certain.

    Guttenberg Could Still Have a Future in Politics

    Incidentally, this doesn't necessarily have to be the end of Guttenberg's political career. History has shown that repentant sinners in politics -- in Germany, too -- often get a second chance. The country's parliament is filled with people who have fallen and then risen again, including Cem Özdemir, who had to resign after getting involved in a personal loan scandal and returned to the political stage again to become the co-head of the national Green Party. Or Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who had to resign as head of the Christian Democratic Union party in 2000 after a campaign finance scandal that also ensnared former Chancellor Helmut Kohl. After a cooling-off period -- in Özdemir's case by taking a seat in the European Parliament in far-away Brussels -- it's possible to come back to Berlin.

    But history also shows us another thing: People like that do not become chancellor. Guttenberg has lost his shot at the chancellery. A German leader who cheated to get his doctorate? Unthinkable.

    As of today, the race for a successor to Angela Merkel is open again. And it's not a pretty sight, either. Guttenberg appeared to be the ideal candidate -- and all of the hopes in the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, had been placed on him. One thing, more than anything else is evident, if one peruses the leadership ranks of the two parties for a potential successor: the emptiness.

    University Pulls German Defense Minister's Doctoral Degree, Patrick McGroarty, The Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2011.


    Opposition lawmakers sought to entangle German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the plagiarism scandal embroiling her defense minister, even as the public seemed largely willing to forgive him for borrowing large sections of his doctoral thesis without attribution.

    Meanwhile, the University of Bayreuth, where Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg received his doctoral degree in 2007, considered his scholarly transgressions serious enough that it revoked the doctorate Wednesday evening. University president Rüdiger Bormann said a panel of professors unanimously agreed "that Mr. zu Guttenberg violated his academic duty to a substantial degree."

    Mr. zu Guttenberg, Germany's most ...


  • Alt named interim chancellor, Ryan McCarthy, Marysville, California Appeal-Democrat, February 7, 2011.


    Nicki Harrington, who will step down in June as chancellor of the Yuba Community College District, named Al Alt interim chancellor until her successor's term begins — an appointment that spurred support as well as questions from faculty.

    "He's a very competent administrator," said Tim May, president of the Academic Senate for Yuba College. "I'm comfortable with Al Alt as interim administrator."

    May did cite concerns with what he believes is support on the board of trustees for increasing the $232,429 yearly salary when the new chancellor is named.

    "You watch," May said, "they're going to come in at $250,000 to $260,000."

    Trustees are scheduled to take up the consultant search for the college district executive and that person's salary when they meet Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Woodland Community College.

    Greg Kemble, secretary for the academic senate, said Alt's doctorate from a Mississippi-based business described as a diploma mill is part of the reason he questions Alt's appointment.

    "As human resources director, his expertise should be to identify diploma mills — such as the one where he got his Ph.D.," Kemble said.

    After a "no confidence" vote by the faculty in 2008, Alt was named vice chancellor of administrative services for the college district the following year.

    Alt, the former director of personnel services for the college district, could not be reached for comment Monday. He has said that the doctorate was not a requirement of his Yuba College district job.

    "In hindsight, I needed to do a lot more digging," Alt said in 2008 of Madison University. A representative of the Mississippi-based school had said Madison closed in 2006 after five years.

    David Wheeler, who began as a college district trustee in December, said Monday that he sought to have the board discuss pay for the new chancellor.

    "I don't want to keep escalating it," Wheeler said of the salary. "I don't think it's necessary."

    Trustee Jim Kennedy, who also took office in December, said that the new chancellor's salary has not been set. Citing the current $232,429 compensation, Kennedy said, "I hope we can attract somebody for less than that."

    "You pay what you need to get the right candidate," he said. "I don't know what it will take."

    Xavier Tafoya, president of the board of trustees, could not be reached Monday for comment. Tafoya has voted to increase the chancellor's pay.

    Trustees in November approved a $15,000 raise for Harrington that boosted her annual salary to $232,429. They had approved a $29,282 raise for Harrington a year ago — an action that led to a rally and petition opposing her pay boost. Trustees then rescinded the raise and cited a public perception that they violated a state open meeting law by approving the salary increase.

    Yuba College professor May said Monday that salary is the focus of many executives at community colleges in California.

    "This is the way the club does it," May said. "They jump from job to job."

    "It's all part of the management game being played," he added. "It's about money."

    Paige Marlatt Dorr, spokeswoman for the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office in Sacramento, said of executive compensation that, "We generally don't comment on issues like that. It is set locally."


  • State of Vermont Office of the Attorney General fines "Stratford Career Institute", Elliot Burg, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Montpelier, VT, December 12, 2010.



    WHEREAS Stratford Career Institute, Inc. ("SCI') is a District of Columbia corporation with offices at 8675 Damley Road, Mount Royal, Quebec, Canada H4TIX2;

    WHEREAS SCI offers and provides non-accredited "distance education" or correspondence programs at the high school level and in a number of vocational areas, including medical office assistant, nursing assistant, and veterinary assistant;

    WHEREAS SCI has enrolled students from Vermont and other states;

    WHEREAS SCI also has an office that is located at 12 Champlain Commons, P.O. Box 560, St. Albans, Vermont 05478-5560, which is used primarily for shipping, receiving, mailing and some administrative functions.

    WHEREAS SCI has represented its address to be in St. Albans, either alone or alongside its address in Mount Royal, including on the company's letterhead, envelopes, academic materials, diplomas, and website;

    WHEREAS, effective January 5, 2006, the State of Vermont began to limit the use of Vermont addresses to describe the location of a company that is not based in Vermont, through the promulgation of Consumer Fraud Rule (CF) 120;

    WHEREAS CF 120.07(a) (Company Location) provides that "[n]o person shall use a Vermont address in any representation to describe the location of the seller, solicitor, producer, distributor or other person associated with a good or service unless the company is based in Vermont";

    WHEREAS under CF 120.01(a), a company is "based in Vermont" if it "currently discharges substantial functions in Vermont. For this purpose, 'substantial functions' do not include such activities as the original development of the goods or services, mail handling or banking, or the presence of sales, distribution or similar staff alone.";

    WHEREAS it is an unfair and deceptive trade act and practice in commerce under the Consumer Fraud Act, 9 V.S.A. § 2453(a), to violate Rule 120;

    WHEREAS the Vermont Attorney General alleges that SCI was not based in Vermont within the meaning of CF 120, that the company nonetheless used a Vermont address to describe its location in violation of CF 120.07( a), and that as a result, the company violated the Vermont Consumer Fraud Act, 9 V.S.A. § 2453(a);

    AND WHEREAS the Attorney General IS willing to accept this Assurance of Discontinuance pursuant to 9 V.S.A. § 2459;

    THEREFORE, the parties agree as follows:

    1. Injunctive relief SCI, itself and through its owners, officers, directors, managers, employees and other agents, shall comply strictly with CF 120, including, but not limited to, the provisions of CF 120 relating to the use of the word "Vermont" in any representation of geographic location. Notwithstanding, nothing herein shall preclude SCI from stating a Vermont mailing address in its communications to third parties, students or consumers, so long as SCI maintains an office in Vermont and clearly and conspicuously discloses in each communication (a) the functions discharged at that location (e.g., "shipping and handling"); and (b) no less prominently, the address of its principal place of business, identified as such, except in the case of a self-addressed envelope, post card, or business reply card, an additional address containing the principal place of business will not be required provided the Vermont address contains a reference to "shipping address," "mailing address," or a similar phrase.

    2. Civil Penalties and costs. Within 10 (ten) business days of signing this Assurance of Discontinuance, SCI shall pay to the State of Vermont, in care of the Vermont Attorney General's Office, the total sum of $10,000.00 (ten thousand dollars) in civil penalties and costs.

    3. Binding effect. This Assurance of Discontinuance shall be binding upon SCI, its officers, directors, managers, employees, and other agents of SCI, and its successors and assigns. The injunctive relief provisions shall become effective upon the date of execution by the parties below.

    4. Final resolution. This Assurance of Discontinuance resolves all existing claims the State of Vermont may have against SCI stemming from the facts described in this Assurance of Discontinuance.


  • KENYA: Government shuts down bogus colleges, Gilbert Nganga, Univesity world News, January 30, 2011.


    Last week Kenya shut more than 100 unaccredited colleges, sending shock waves through the country's academic community as the government delivered on its promise of cleaning up the higher education sector.

    The major operation to take illegal colleges out of business started on Tuesday, as Ministry of Higher Education inspectors shuttled between the main urban areas to shut down the institutions.

    A list of the 110 colleges to be axed was published by the ministry in the media two weeks ago.

    The closures have triggered massive transfer of students from the colleges on the list, with thousands of other students left out of school.

    The latest development has also fuelled anxiety and confusion among graduates of such colleges, who have been left holding certificates from institutions whose credibility has been called into question.

    The closures follow a string of warnings issued by education officials over the past five years. During this period unregistered colleges have mushroomed in the country's main cities, to cash in on the growing demand for higher education.

    Rising transition rates from primary and secondary schools, and limited university places available annually for prospective students whose grades make them eligible for higher education study, have fuelled the demand for college attendance.

    Government investment in the education sector over the past five years has reached new heights. The requirement that all tertiary colleges register afresh and have their premises inspected for suitability to offer certificate, diploma and degree courses has been part of a bid to bring sanity to this crucial sub-sector, offering an assurance of quality to students and their parents alike.

    Government concluded its college vetting process and published a final list of accredited institutions in December.

    Kenya is also spending US$56 million in donor funding on building vocational and technical training countrywide, to help boost the country's skills base.



  • Private post-secondary schools operating illegally in B.C., Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Vancouver Sun, January 25, 2011.


    The number of private post-secondary schools suspected of operating illegally in B.C. is growing.

    A list on the Regional Economic and Skills Development Ministry website has 45 names, including the American University of London (which was part of the Kingston College scandal from 2006), Rutherford University (also known as Senior University and subject to an investigation in B.C.), the notorious Vancouver University Worldwide (which is believed to have closed following the death in 2007 of owner Raymond Rodgers) and Armstrong University (also part of the Kingston College scam).

    Some of the schools have grand names, such as Canada Princeton College, George Washington University, Manhattan University, Kennedy Open University and the Asia Pacific International Graduate School of Management. Others are less pretentious: Bible University, Brainwells University, Generale University and Covenant Life College.

    But don't be fooled. The ministry says it has reason to believe the institutions on the list are - or were - breaking the law by offering degrees in B.C. without government authorization.

    Find the list here. This government initiative follows a similar effort to raise awareness about bogus institutions several years ago by Robert Clift of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C (CUFA-BC). Clift, a diligent researcher, was a great source of information on the subject.

    The ministry says it has taken many steps during the past two years to protect students, enhance quality and strengthen the accountability of private post-secondary institutions.

    "Publishing the names of institutions that do not have legal authority to operate in B.C., but may be linked with B.C. in some way, is another important way for us to ensure students can make well-informed decisions about where they wish to study, and we have been doing this since August of last year. We're the first jurisdiction in Canada to do this, but it is common practice in the U.S.," the ministry told me in a statement.

    "Our list includes institutions who, in the past, may have been advertising, providing or granting degrees from or within B.C., Some of these institutions have long since shut down - so while the list may have grown from CUFA's previous list, it's not necessarily due to an influx of new issues. Our post-secondary institutions are widely known for the quality of their programs, and our actions are essential to maintaining that reputation.

    "In the past, we have been successful in taking action against various institutions including an injunction against Vancouver University Worldwide - but it can be very difficult to track down the individuals responsible. With the internet, anonymity and multi-jurisdictional issues, unauthorized institutions are often able to operate under the radar. It takes significant resources to take action against them."

    Anyone with information or concerns about the authority of an institution to offer degrees in B.C. should call 250-387-2040.

    The list is at On February 6, 2011 it included the following degree providers:


    • Alternative Medicine Research Institute
    • American Liberty University
    • American University of London (Kingston College)
    • Armstrong University
    • Asia Pacific International Graduate School of Management
    • Austin College
    • Bible University
    • Bircham International University
    • Brainwells University
    • Brixton University
    • Canada International Education Center
    • Canada Princeton College
    • Canadian College of Management and Technology
    • Canadian Institute of English
    • Can-National Business College (formerly Canada Institute of Business & Technology and HGK International Institute of Business & Technology)
    • Covenant Life College
    • Distance Learning University
    • Generale Polytechnic Institute
    • Generale University
    • George Washington University Inc
    • Information University of America
    • International Academic Correspondence Inc.
    • Kennedy Open University
    • Manhattan University
    • Merlion International University
    • Mission Institute of Canada
    • Mission Institute of Distance Education
    • Neurontology University
    • Newton University
    • Rutherford University
    • Saint Michael University
    • Senior University Inc.
    • Southern College British Columbia
    • Stanton University
    • Stratford International University
    • The Distance University
    • The Open University of America
    • University Consortium International Inc.
    • University of Northern Washington
    • University of NorthWest
    • Vancouver University Worldwide
    • Washington College & University
    • Western Imperial College of Canada
    • Weston Reserve University
    • Windsor Education Academy, Inc.


  • WHNT NEWS 19 Wins Emmy For Investigative Series , WHNT News 19, Huntsville, Alabama, WHNT-TV, January 31, 2011.


    Congratulations go to several of our colleagues at WHNT NEWS 19 who are now Emmy winners.

    WHNT NEWS 19 took home an Emmy for Investigative Series on Saturday, at the 25th Midsouth Emmy Awards.

    The Emmy is for 'Breach of Trust', an investigative series that exposed local military members and contractors who purchased diplomas online and then got promotions and higher pay.

    WHNT NEWS 19's former investigative reporter Wendy Halloran won the award, along with photojournalist Shane Hays, news director Denise Vickers and graphic artists Joe Glotzbach and Jacob Greene.

    WHNT NEWS 19 was nominated in six other categories, in competition with other stations from around the southeast.


  • Selections from the ECE ELECTRONIC NEWSLETTER, Volume XIII, Number 1, 28 January 2011:


    Blackpool University (in Ascension Island, England, and Ireland) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Golden State University [also known as Honolulu University of Arts, Sciences and Humanities] (in Australia, Lebanon, and Hawaii and U.S. Virgin Islands) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    American College of Metaphysical Theology [also known as American College of Theology] (in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Richardson University (known in the United States as American State University in Hawaii and as Hamilton University in Wyoming) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution under any one of the three names in either country.

    American College of Metaphysical Theology [also known as American College of Theology] (in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Ateneo di Studi Superiori pro Pace (Institute of Higher Studies for Peace) (in Belgium and Italy) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Taylor University College and Seminary (in Edmonton, Alberta) was renamed Taylor College and Seminary in June 2009 and is no longer authorized to offer bachelor's degree programs.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Yorker International University (in China, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    The Council of Europe, a membership organization of 47 countries in Europe, does not officially recognize any higher education institution or program. No legitimate institution or organization would claim that it does.

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    American University in London is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    Ashbourne University (in London) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Bircham International University (in Bahamas; Oxford, England; Nairobi, Kenya; New Zealand; Spain; Taiwan; Delaware and Florida, United States), established in 1992 as Oxford International University, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the seven countries.

    Blackpool University (in Ascension Island, England, and Ireland) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Cambridgeshire University [not in England, but in Malaysia and in the United States: Alabama (claimed authorization), California (fax number), New York (office and Web site), and Virginia (telephone number)] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Earlscroft University (in London, England; Ireland; Seychelles; and Texas USA) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Institute of Professional Managers and Administrators is not an officially recognized professional association.

    International Institute of Management is not an officially recognized professional association.

    Manchester College of Professional Studies, established in 2006 but closed by the United Kingdom Home Office in July 2008, was not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    National Distance Learning College is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Oxford International University, established in 1992 and renamed Bircham International University in 2000, was not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Distance Learning Council of Europe [DLCE] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    European Committee for Home and Online Education [ECHOE] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    European Council for Distance and Open Learning [ECDOL] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Adam Smith University (in France, Italy, Liberia, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Ecole Superieure Robert de Sorbon (Higher School of Robert de Sorbon) [also known as Universite Francophone Robert de Sorbon (Francophone University of Robert de Sorbon)] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    American College of Metaphysical Theology, also known as American College of Theology (in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka State, has been renamed Bengaluru (which was its original name, in the Kannada language).

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Blackpool University (in Ascension Island, England, and Ireland) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Earlscroft University (in England, Ireland, Seychelles, and Texas USA) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Irish International University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Accademia de Belle Arti di Mendicino (Academy of Fine Arts of Mendicino) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Adam Smith University (in France, Italy, Liberia, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    American College of Metaphysical Theology, also known as American College of Theology (in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Ateneo di Studi Superiori pro Pace (Institute of Higher Studies for Peace) (in Belgium and Italy) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Bernelli University (in Italy and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Centro di Tecnologia Universitaria Straniera (Center for Foreign University Technology) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Eurasia Community College is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    European Institute of Technology (in Italy and San Marino) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country. [NOTE: This is not the same as the European Institute of Technology [EIT] established by the European Union in 2010.]

    Instituto Latinoamericano de Psicobiofisico (Latin American Institute of Psychobiophysics) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Istituto di Firenze (Institute of Florence) [also translated as Florence Institute of Design International], a private institution in Florence, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution. Istituto di Firenze is officially recognized by the Region of Tuscany as a postsecondary vocational institution that offers one-year and two-year diploma programs. Students who complete a two-year diploma program can obtain the title of graphic designer or interior designer. Istituto di Firenze also offers post-Laurea programs that lead to a Master diploma (not a Laurea Magistrale or a Master Universitario). The language of instruction is English.

    James Monroe International University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Libera Universita degli Studi di Formello (Free University of Formello) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Libera Universita Internazionale G. W. Leibniz (G. W. Leibniz Free International University) [also known as Leibniz Campus] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Libera Universitas Multidisciplinare Umanitaria per la Cultura Internazionale (Multidisciplinary Humanitarian Free University for International Culture) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Marquis Open University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Miranda International University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Non Traditional University of USA [also known as University of USA] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Pebble Hills University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Phoenix International University Europe is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Saint Bernard University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    St. Paul Ottawa College and University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Universite Intercontinentale Le Bon Samaritain (International University of the Good Samaritan) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    West Coast University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Yorker International University (in China, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Golden State University [also known as Honolulu University of Arts, Sciences and Humanities] (in Australia, Lebanon, and Hawaii and U.S. Virgin Islands) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Adam Smith University (in France, Italy, Liberia, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Cambridgeshire University [not in England, but in Malaysia and in the United States: Alabama (claimed authorization), California (fax number), New York (office and Web site), and Virginia (telephone number)] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these locations.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India. Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    The academic year at Philippine Christian University is June to March. A student can enroll in a maximum of 9 credits in the six-week summer term. Educational credentials that listed 20 credits completed in one summer term and which showed a graduation date in October were confirmed not to be authentic.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    European Institute of Technology (in Italy and San Marino) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country. [NOTE: This is not the same as the European Institute of Technology [EIT] established by the European Union in 2010.]

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    Earlscroft University (in England, Ireland, Seychelles, and Texas USA) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Brookes Business School is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Brookes University is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    Cambridge International University (in South Africa and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    Greenleaf University (Sweden and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Freie und Private Universitat Herisau (Free and Private University of Herisau) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution.

    United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] does not accredit educational institutions, it does not grant official recognition to accrediting organizations, and it does not maintain a registry of higher education institutions. Institutions and organizations that claim official approval from UNESCO have made false claims.

    Yorker International University (in China, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Accreditation Governing Commission [AGC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Adam Smith University (in France, Italy, Liberia, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Adult Higher Education Alliance [AHEA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation [AAHE or AAHEA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    American College of Metaphysical Theology, also known as American College of Theology (in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    American Council of Private Colleges and Universities [ACPCU] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    American Council on Post-Secondary Accreditation [ACOPA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board [ANMAB] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    American Open University (in Alexandria, Virginia) is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education.

    American State University (in Hawaii USA as American State University; in Wyoming USA as Hamilton University; and in Bahamas as Richardson University) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    American University of London (in London, England; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Sri Lanka; St. Kitts & Nevis; and Houston, Texas, USA), established in 1984 as American College of Science and Technology, is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of the six countries.

    American World University (in Mississippi and South Dakota) is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education.

    Ashwood University is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education.

    Bernelli University (in Italy and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Board of Online Universities Accreditation [BOUA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Cambridge International University (in South Africa and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Cambridgeshire University [not in England, but in Malaysia and in the United States: Alabama (claimed authorization), California (fax number), New York (office and Web site), and Virginia (telephone number)] is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Clayton University (in China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Nigeria, San Marino, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries. [NOTE: Clayton State University (in Morrow, Georgia, United States) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Concordia College and University (in Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Italy, Liberia, Pakistan, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Council on Post Secondary Christian Accreditation [COPCE] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Earlscroft University (in England, Ireland, Seychelles, and Texas USA) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Educational Quality Accrediting Commission [EQAC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Faith in the Order of Nature [FION] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Global Accreditation Organization for Life Experience and Education [GAOLEE] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Golden State University [also known as Honolulu University of Arts, Sciences and Humanities] (in Australia, Lebanon, and Hawaii and U.S. Virgin Islands) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.

    Government Accreditation Association of Delaware [GAAD] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Greenleaf University (Sweden and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Hamilton University (in Hawaii USA as American State University; in Wyoming USA as Hamilton University; and in Bahamas as Richardson University) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in either country.

    Higher Education Accreditation Commission [HEAC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    International Accreditation Agency [IAA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities [IAAOU] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    International Accreditation Association of Universities and Colleges [IAAUC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    International Accreditation Recognition Council [IARC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    International Open University (in California and Texas) [also known as Standford University] is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education. [NOTE: Stanford University (in Stanford, California) is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.]

    International University Accrediting Association [IUAA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Kennedy-Western University [also known as Warren National University] is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education.

    Lacrosse University (in Louisiana and Mississippi) is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education. [NOTE: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (in La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA) is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.]

    Richardson University (in Bahamas; known in Hawaii, USA as American State University, and in Wyoming, USA as Hamilton University) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution under any one of the three names in either country.

    Standford University (in California and Texas) [also known as International Open University] is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education. [NOTE: Stanford University (in Stanford, California) is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.]

    United Congress of Colleges [UCC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation [UCOEA] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Warren National University [also known as Kennedy-Western University] is not listed in “2008-2009 Accredited institutions of Postsecondary Education,” a publication of the American Council on Education.

    World Association of Universities and Colleges [WAUC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    World Online Education Accrediting Commission [WOEAC] is not an officially recognized accrediting organization.

    Yorker International University (in China, Italy, United Arab Emirates, and United States) is not officially recognized as a degree-granting institution in any of these countries.



  • Duped Indian students ignored red flags , Chidanand Rajghatta, The Times of india, Jan 31, 2011.


    WASHINGTON: Hundreds of Indian students who have gotten scammed by a dodgy California-based university had it coming. Tri-Valley University (TVU) had a reputation as a "Diploma Mill" that offered a spurious route to employment and immigration in the US. Inquiring students and professionals knew about it, discussed it in immigration forums, and warned others about it.

    But eager beavers looking for a short cut to emigrating to the US through a questionable academic route ignored the red flags. After US authorities busted the scam, an estimated 1500 students, some of them gullible victims, some of them scheming immigrant hopefuls, face financial loss, loss of credits, loss of time, loss of face, and in some cases, even face deportation. ( Read: Hard times ahead for 'sham' US varsity students )

    Here's how the scam unfolded: India, from among all countries, has been sending the maximum number of students to US colleges over the past decade – some 10,000 to 15,000 each year. Most aspiring students try and get into the top 50 schools, which have stringent qualifying standards, including exams such as GRE and GMAT, besides TOEFL, an English proficiency test. The process involves gaining admission on the basis of test scores, in lieu of which the university, if it accredited and complaint with US rules, sends an I-20 document to the accepted student, which he or she presents to the embassy or consulate in the home country to get an F-1 student visa. ( Read: Govt probing if agents duped students )

    But in recent years, several dodgy universities have come up which waive GRE/GMAT requirements as long as students can pay thousands of dollars up front in the form of various 'fees.' More pertinently, these colleges dubiously facilitate Optional Practical Training(OPT) and Curricular Practical Training (CPT), the two routes to employment at the end of the college degree, from the first day of enrollment.

    Typically, in recognized, well-regarded universities, all students must be enrolled as full-time students for a year before receiving CPT/OPT. For the hundreds of thousands of Indian students who have eventually become US citizens, OPT and CPT are the first steps to employment--based visa (usually H1-B), Green Card, and citizenship, in that order.

    TVU and similar schools had a "well-earned" reputation of shortening the process by offering OPT/CPT from day one – which meant "students" could get on the employment track even as they began "college." In fact, TVU didn't even have a campus in the traditional sense. It had a solitary, sorry-looking building, bought in April 2010, which housed everything from administrative offices to classrooms, from which random lectures were transmitted over the internet to "students" across the US, including those working other jobs. Under current US law, students cannot take only online courses while on an F-1 status, a scam TVU managed to perpetrate.

    Founded by Susan Xiao-Ping Su and run mainly by Chinese Christians, with a few Indians in the "faculty," the school boasted that its mission "is to make Christian scientists, engineers, business leaders and lawyers for the glory of God, with both solid academic professionalism and Christian faith, therefore to live out Christ-like characters, value and compassion in the world, to make an impact and shine as its light."

    If that wasn't enough to set off alarm bells, prospective students could have at least seen the writing on the wall – internet forums -- had they bother to trawl any. In an exchange that began in April 2010, students, both prospective, inquiring ones, and those already committed to TVU, duked it out online about the university and its practices. "Has any one got any experience with Tri-Valley University?" inquired one person on an immigration forum. He had heard they offer "hassle free admission, gre, gmat not mandatory, tofel (sic) is pretty much the only requirement low semester fee, OPT, CPT from the day the course starts. no tests, no mandatory online classes, a perfect way to bypass the visa process!"

    In no time, there were red flags galore. "TVU is NOT accredited, so you can NOT get a degree from them. Any 'degree' they issue is worthless," wrote one forum member on May 19. "If you use a 'degree' from them for any immigration purpose, it would be fraud. You can also NOT use OPT or CPT from them. Any such use would be fraud." Unperturbed, the inquirer wrote back: "the degrees are worthless, but i thought that its enough to get CPT."

    Other immigration forum members, some of them partisans and flaks for TVU, then argued about how if the university was not accredited, it could generate I-20, a document for prospective students that enables them to apply for and get F-1 student visa in their home country. "You are grasping at straws. Probably because you have signed up with them and now have been told that you got scammed. Scamming victims are often in denial...," wrote a user named Jo1234, warning, "I think TVU will eventually get into trouble with authorities...Their "degrees" are worthless. If you try to use them for an H1 or a GC, you would be committing fraud. Spend your money with a real university, not these fraudsters."

    It took till January this year for US authorities to cotton on to the scam – or, to look at it charitably, to put together the manpower for a nationwide crackdown. Although TVU was based in Pleasanton, California, it's 'students' were scattered throughout the country, from the East Coast to Midwest to Deep South. Many of them were illegally employed. Although it was allowed only 30 foreign admissions pending accreditation, TVU had managed to work the system to enroll more than 1500 students. Apparently, there were companies across the US which used TVU's F-1 visa-based CPT/OPT to beat H1-B visa requirements, which regulate salary, insist on not replacing American workers etc.

    On January 19, after raiding TVU, getting student records from the school, and shutting it down, immigration officials began knocking on the doors of TVU students across the country or serving NTAs (notice to appear) asking them to get in touch with the local office. In some cases, officials merely made preliminary inquiries. In others, students were interrogated for up to three hours. Some had their passports taken away, if they declined voluntary departure. And in rare cases, where officials found egregious violation of visa terms or questionable visas, students were shackled with electronic monitoring devices till further inquiries.

    "It was terrifying," said one student who asked not to be named. "Out of the blue, all our dreams came crashing down."

    But while there is the usual outrage and fire-spitting in India over the radio collar issue, it turns out that not all students are as gullible as was initially made out. Speaking on background, community leaders, attorneys, and even some students acknowledged that many people knew the whole process was questionable. One giveaway: According to representatives of the Telugu Association of North America (TANA), an estimated 95 per cent of the TVU admissions from India are from Andhra Pradesh, a fact that has prompted TANA to arrange legal representation for the students. "They are young kids whose future will be ruined. They are our people after all. We have to help them," says TANA's Jayaram Komati. According to one student, most victims paid up to $ 2800 per semester to Tri-Valley, some of them paying as much as $ 16,000 up front for a full course to obtain a shady degree.

    The growing sense among officials and even the Indian community is that many students knew what they were getting into but still risked it. "They know what the rules are - problem is, some of them work within the Indian mentality that the rules are made to be avoided and that the government is a nuisance, not a power to be reckoned with," Nandita Ruchandani, a New York-area immigration attorney who has dealt with such cases, told ToI. Still, many attorneys, some of them working pro bono, are offering to help the students. Two attorneys arranged by TANA in the Bay Area are now working on several Tri-Valley cases.

    On Sunday morning TANA arranged for a conference call with immigration attorneys at which more than 200 affected students called in. Among the student gripes, how could the US government undermine the process initiated by a college which it recognized enough to allow it to generate F-1 visas? And if it was a sham university as authorities were now claiming, how and why did the US consulates in India issue the visas?

    Meanwhile, a steamed up Indian government, aghast at the radio tagging of a few students, has sought to free them of the ignominy even as the more gullible victims are wondering whether to return to India or keep a foot in the academic door through an appeals process. "We are in a dilemma ...Many students are afraid to go to immigration officers...they are taking away passports pending investigation, sometimes even for those going for voluntary self-departure," a Minneapolis-based student told TOI. The student, who transferred to Tri-Valley from another university, found the Pleasanton school dodgy enough to request a transfer late last year. But she says other schools declined to accept Tri-Valley credits. Stuck in the quagmire, she has gone by the advice of US authorities and phoned into the hotline they have established to provide details of her case. She hasn't heard back from them. It will be a long cold winter for many Indian students in the US.


  • Feds call Pleasanton-based Tri-Valley University a 'sham', Sophia Kazmi, Pleasanton, California, Mercury News, January 20, 2011.


    PLEASANTON -- A Pleasanton university that catered to mostly online students is being called a sham by federal prosecutors who say the university was a front to illegally provide immigration status to foreign nationals.

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Wednesday were at the Tri-Valley University campus on Boulder Court in Pleasanton and executed search warrants at three other properties owned by school founder Susan Su, including one in the gated Ruby Hill community.

    The complaint, filed by the U.S. District Attorney's Office on Wednesday, claims Su was part of an elaborate scheme to defraud, using false statements and misrepresentations to the Department of Homeland Security.

    "Since its inception ... Tri-Valley University has been a sham university, which Su, and others, have used to facilitate foreign nationals in illegally acquiring student immigration status that authorizes them to remain in the United States," the complaint reads.

    According to the complaint, Su and Tri-Valley University have made millions of dollars in tuition fees for issuing the visa-related documents, enabling foreign nationals to obtain illegal student immigration status.

    Calls to Tri-Valley University were not returned.

    ICE began its investigation in May 2010. The institution received is approval to issue visas in February 2009 and had the approval for about 30 students. In May 2009 the school had 11 active students that had received F-1 visas, and 939 by May 2010.

    According to the complaint, more than 95 percent of students were from India. For more than half of them, the university reported their address was a single apartment in Sunnyvale. The apartment manager told ICE agents that four university students lived there from June 2007 to August 2009 and none since.

    Investigators believe TVU reported that most of its students live at the apartment to conceal they don't live in the state.

    For a student to maintain the immigration status, they must show proof they are making reasonable process toward completing coursework and physically attend classes.

    One of the school's professors, who did not want his name used, said Thursday he was shocked by the investigation. He said he taught online courses out of his home since 2009 and he said his experience with the university has been positive.

    "I teach high quality courses and my students are good students and that's all I can tell you," he said.

    He said classes were supposed to restart Jan. 10 after winter break, but there was a delay. He said he got an email from Su on Thursday that said classes would begin soon.


  • PSC fires professor, Kris Wernowsky, Pensacola, Florida, January 18, 2011.


    Pensacola State College fired a tenured professor Tuesday amid allegations that he presented college administrators with an unaccredited master's degree from an online diploma mill that he obtained while on a paid sabbatical.

    Robert Michael Ardis, 48, has 10 days to appeal to the college Board of Trustees for a hearing before the board and 14 days to file a grievance that would see the matter brought before an arbitrator under the faculty union contract.

    The associate professor of behavioral sciences and coordinator of the college's criminal justice program is also locked in an outside legal battle on criminal charges of violating a domestic violence injunction involving his 22-year-old wife, a former PSC student.

    Charged with 14 counts of contempt of court, Ardis' case is set for trial on Jan. 24 before Escambia County Judge Joyce Williams.

    The college's lawyer, Tom Gilliam, has said that the decision to dismiss Ardis is unrelated to the criminal matters. Ardis had been suspended without pay since Dec. 15.

    PSC President Ed Meadows made the recommendation to the board to oust Ardis Tuesday. The board unanimously voted to dismiss Ardis who took a board-approved sabbatical in the spring term and first summer term in 2010.

    Robert Larkin, a Tallahassee labor attorney who is representing the college, said that Ardis obtained his master's degree from Belford University and that "for another $25 he could have had his diploma say 'cum laude.'"

    Larkin said that Ardis then submitted the degree to the college to obtain a promotion and a higher rate of pay.

    This prompted Board of Trustees president John O'Connor to wonder if the college had any legal recourse to sue Ardis to obtain the money it paid him during his sabbatical.

    He also asked if the college can examine other professors to see if they hold similar bogus degrees.

    Larkin said the college could possibly do both.

    The Better Business Bureau describes Belford University as a "diploma mill" where students can received their degree in as little as 15 days.

    "Consumers report paying hundreds of dollars for diplomas and/or degrees but later discover that credentials offered by this organization are fraudulent and worthless," according to the bureau's Web site which gives Belford an "F" grade.

    Belford's lists a Humble, Texas address, but the BBB says it received correspondence from the company in November that says, "We are a Panama-based educational company incorporated as per the laws of the Republic of Panama."

    Tom Wazlavek, a union representative with the United Faculty of Florida, appeared at Tuesday's meeting on Ardis' behalf. Ardis did not attend.

    "I don't want to go into the specifics of this case, because we are still looking through the college's case," Wazlavek said. "He looks forward to his day in court."

    Wazlavek said Ardis will likely pursue the grievance path as having an appeal hearing before the same board that decided to fire him to begin with would not be beneficial.

    On Nov. 30, 2009, Ardis' wife filed for a domestic violence injunction against him. The two have a child.

    In the complaint, Ardis' wife reported that her husband became violent during an argument about which of them would pick up the family dog at a kennel.

    She wrote that he threw a plastic tub to awaken her, dragged her from bed, kicked in a door and placed her in a stranglehold.

    On Oct. 25 of last year, Ardis was arrested after his wife accused him of violating the injunction by contacting her via the Internet and discussing family members other than the couple's then-15-month-old son.

    Ardis ended up spending five days in jail.


  • Ph. D. really a "b.s." degree, Carl Campanile, New York, New York Post, January 17, 2011.


    It's a college con job!

    The head of a controversial center run by ex-convicts at Brooklyn's Medgar Evers College obtained a "doctorate" degree from an online "diploma mill," an official told The Post.

    Divine Pryor, founder of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, is suing the CUNY school to block his group's eviction from the campus for lacking credentials.

    He claims he earned a Ph.D. from Suffield University.

    But the Connecticut Department of Higher Education said it issued a "cease and desist" order against Suffield for operating without a license after a probe.

    "We view it as a diploma mill selling unaccredited degrees . . . We shut them down," said Connecticut Higher Education spokeswoman Constance Fraser.

    Suffield's Web site offers associate, bachelor, master's and doctoral degrees for upwards of $550, with discounts for multiple degrees.

    It admits there are no academic requirements and says, "The whole process can often be completed within 7-10 days."

    Pryor -- who was sprung in 1992 after serving 10 years for robbery and burglary -- insisted, "I worked hard for my [Suffield Ph.D.] degree."

    Suffield did not return calls seeking comment.


  • Jailed over bogus college scam , Home Office, U.K.Border Agency, December 14, 2010.


    Three people were jailed yesterday for a total of 18.5 years for setting up bogus colleges to help illegal immigrants remain in the UK, following an investigation by our London immigration crime team.

    Husband and wife Tiamiyu and Christiana Bello, aged 75 and 67, were arrested following a raid on a property on New Cross Road in south London in July 2007.

    Registered to the address were the 'Academic College of Education' and the 'Academic College of Training and Recruitment', institutions for which the Bellos were the principals.

    Officers soon discovered that the building was a collection of bedsits and there was no evidence of lessons being taught there.

    During a search a large number of documents were seized, including letters purporting to be from the 'Academic College of Education' and counterfeit qualification certificates.

    39-year-old solicitor Adeyinka Adeniran was later arrested following a search of his office on Old Kent Road. Many of the files seized from that address contained documentation from the Bellos' college.

    Their scam, which continued for several years prior to their arrest, involved the supply of fake qualification documents which were then used to support visa applications to the Home Office. Many applicants were then represented by Adeniran through his legal practice.

    Following an 11 week trial at Croydon Crown Court, Tiamiyu and Christiana Bello were found guilty of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration and conspiracy to possess articles for use in fraud. They were both sentenced to 5 years in prison.

    Adeniran was found guilty of conspiring to assist unlawful immigration. Described by the judge as a 'disgrace to his profession', he was sentenced to 8.5 years behind bars.

    Chris Foster, London immigration crime team, UK Border Agency said:

    'This was a sophisticated criminal enterprise, which had the explicit aim of helping those who had no right to be in the UK evade immigration controls.

    'As this case shows, illegal immigration can be big business. I hope this sends out a message that we are committed to tackling the criminal groups behind it, putting the ringleaders before the courts, and, ultimately, behind bars.

    'We now have dedicated teams of UK Border Agency investigators working with police officers across the country to protect our border and prosecute those criminals who undermine and abuse our immigration control.

    It comes as we continue a campaign to tackle illegal immigration and organised immigration crime.

    Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

    'During the summer UK Border Agency officers across the country carried out a major enforcement crackdown which generated a large number of arrests, cash seizures and prosecutions. It also brought fresh intelligence which the agency is using, as seen with this operation today, to further disrupt the activities of people involved in facilitating immigration crime.

    'We are also working with other law enforcement agencies to root out criminal networks behind the importation of drugs and firearms and cracking down on white collar professionals who seek to abuse immigration law.

    'Illegal immigration puts huge pressure on the public purse at a time when the country can least afford it. Together with the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency we will continue to make life as difficult as possible for those who to cheat the immigration system.'

    The London immigration crime team is a specialist unit of police officers seconded from the Metropolitan Police working alongside our warranted officers to investigate organised immigration crime.


  • Isom retires in wake of FDLE charge, Brad Buck, Leesburg, Florida, The Daily Commercial, December 17, 2010.


    After 26 years with the Fruitland Park Department, Chief Mark Isom called it quits Wednesday after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement filed a criminal charge against him.

    He likely will be stripped of his police certification, City Manager Ralph Bowers said, adding that he thinks that's part of the negotiations between FDLE and Isom's attorney.

    Isom asked Bowers on Friday to place him on paid administrative leave. Bowers did so, and for now, Sgt. David Borst is the interim chief.

    Bowers thanked Isom for his nearly 26 years of "dedicated service, after which he made one mistake."

    "We need to forgive him and pray for his future," Bowers said. "Did he mislead the city? Probably."

    The latest development comes a couple of weeks after Isom announced he planned to retire Dec. 31 if the FDLE called off its investigation into allegations he got college degrees from a diploma mill.

    The state agency continued its investigation, filed the criminal charge against him and now Isom is no longer the police chief.

    FDLE charged Isom, 47, with attempted official misconduct, according to records from the agency. That is a misdemeanor.

    Assistant State Attorney Anthony Tatti, who is prosecuting the criminal charge against Isom, said Wednesday FDLE was working toward stripping Isom of his police certification. He wouldn't comment on whether prosecutors plan to do that.

    Tatti did say that it's not unusual to take first-time misdemeanors who have already paid their restitution and put them in pre-trial diversion programs.

    Isom's next scheduled court date is 8:30 a.m. Dec. 29 before Lake County Judge Donna Miller. But it's possible the case will be resolved before then, Tatti said.

    Whether Isom retains his police certification or not, Bowers said last week the only job he would give Isom is volunteering for the city's fire department.

    Isom was paid $70,000 a year as chief.

    Even though the city is not paying Bowers now, it's still paying his l legal fees for the fake college diploma case.

    Last week, city commissioners transferred $14,000 from one account to another to pay Isom's attorney fees in this case. That means city taxpayers will pay for Isom's attorney, Robert Trimle of Orlando.

    Trimble was in court Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

    While Borst is the interim chief, City Commissioner Jim Richardson suggested at last week's commission meeting that Fruitland Park ask Sheriff Gary Borders to send a commander to the police department to oversee it until a permanent chief is hired.

    City commissioners did not agree to that proposal.

    As for the criminal charge, the affidavit says that between April 15, 2009 and Jan. 29, 2010, Isom received $775.32 "based on his false claim of entitlement to incentive pay for having earned the said degree."

    Isom paid the money back to the city after saying he had just learned that Youngsfield University was a diploma mill.

    Emails between Isom and the "university" show that, for an $1,100 online payment, the chief would receive printed diplomas, transcripts and two letters of recommendation from professors, the affidavit says. Via his signature, the chief admitted that "I am aware that this is a non-accredited program."

    Isom completed no course work with Youngsfield University or any other institution of higher learning for bachelor's or master's degrees, the affidavit said.

    FDLE investigators said their efforts to contact Youngsfield University were futile.


  • Troopers busted with suspect diplomas sue state: Five troopers suspended without pay for 3-10 days claim they were defamed, Levi Pulkkinen, Seattle, Washington, Post-Intelligencer, December 15, 2010.


    Five state troopers investigated and disciplined for using bogus college diplomas to gain pay raises have sued the state, claiming they were defamed.

    Filing a lawsuit earlier this month in King County Superior Court, the State Patrol troopers claim their reputations were stained in 2008 when the patrol released details of a probe into allegations that they had obtained bunk college degrees to gain pay raises.

    In the suit, the troopers -- Bryan Ensley, Daniel Mann, Gabriel Olson, Dennis Tardiff and Spike Unruh -- each claim to hold degrees from Internet-based colleges that award credit based on "life experience."

    Neither school is accredited by any body recognized by the federal Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the two organizations on which the patrol now relies to determine if a degree is valid.

    The patrol launched an audit of personnel records in May 2008 after it came to light that a Spokane diploma mill selling counterfeit degrees and transcripts counted dozens of government workers among its customers. None of the troopers involved in the suit was a client of the diploma mill; each had, instead, obtained a degree online.

    In 2008, nine troopers suspected of using degrees from unaccredited colleges were placed on paid leave while the allegations were investigated by the patrol. No charges were filed and, according to the lawsuit, each of the five troopers who has now sued was briefly suspended without pay.

    Speaking Wednesday, State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins defended the department's actions against the troopers.

    "This matter was thoroughly investigated, carefully considered and we think the discipline was appropriate," Calkin said.

    Troopers received a 4 percent pay increase for holding a bachelor's degree and an additional 2 percent raise for a master's degree, providing a financial incentive to participate in the programs.

    According to the lawsuit, Mann had been receiving educational incentive pay since 1999, when he obtained a bachelor's degree from the University of Berkley -- an online institution unaffiliated with the University of California at Berkeley.

    The other four troopers involved in the suit received their degrees from Almeda University -- another online university that, for a fee, also awards degrees based on an applicant's life experience -- and began drawing additional pay in 2006, attorney Aaron D. Bigby told the court.

    Bigby, of the Seattle law firm Northcraft, Bigby & Biggs, argued in the civil complaint that the State Patrol had no rules for judging whether a university was properly accredited until after the investigation was launched in 2008.

    Bigby recounted a July 2008 e-mail purportedly sent by a State Patrol captain investigating the troopers' educational backgrounds. The captain, Bigby told the court, noted that the State Patrol had "no real standard in place regarding what type of accreditation" is required.

    Writing the court, Bigby said his clients were placed on paid administrative leave for 10 months while the patrol conducted a criminal investigation. No charges were filed and, after an initial move by the patrol to fire the deputies, the troopers were suspended for three to 10 days without pay.

    Now, the troopers contend they were defamed by their employer in statements to the media after the investigation was made public. Writing the court, Bigby also claimed the patrol wrongly tied his clients to the Spokane diploma mill, which was the subject of criminal prosecution.

    "Unlike the Spokane diploma mill, Almeda University and the University of Berkley operators have not been convicted of counterfeiting for their operations," Bigby told the court. "By implying a link between (the troopers) and the Spokane diploma mill, the (State Patrol) has placed the plaintiffs in a false light."

    Bigby also faulted the patrol for releasing the names, personnel files and photos of his clients to reporters following a public records request.

    Claiming his clients have suffered "severe emotional distress," Bigby asserted the troopers are owed payment for the harm done to their reputations, their mental anguish and invasions of their privacy.

    The State Patrol has not yet responded to the suit with the court.


  • Troopers Holding Fake Degrees Sue State for Defamation, Saying Degrees Were Fake, but Not THAT Fake, Curtis Cartier, Seattle, Washington, Seattle Weekly, December 16, 2010.


    There are dozens of websites out there from "universities" like "University of Berkley" and "Almeda University" (not to be confused with Berkeley and Alameda) where people can log on, plug in a bunch of info on their "life experience," then pay a fee and wait while the website shits out a "degree" that they can then pad their resume with. A couple years ago, nine Washington State Patrol Troopers got caught using fake online degrees in order to get pay raises. Now the troopers are suing the state, saying they were defamed when the department implied a link between their fake degrees with those of an even more egregious Spokane-based diploma mill that was busted before the troopers were.

    The P-I reported the news today.


    In the suit, the troopers--Bryan Ensley, Daniel Mann, Gabriel Olson, Dennis Tardiff and Spike Unruh--each claim to hold degrees from Internet-based colleges that award credit based on "life experience."

    Neither school is accredited by any body recognized by the federal Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the two organizations on which the patrol now relies to determine if a degree is valid.

    Basically, the troopers are arguing that at the time they were disciplined (they were each briefly suspended without pay) the department didn't have a policy in place to determine which universities gave degrees that were valid to use for getting pay increases, and which were bullshit scams whose degrees might as well be cutouts from boxes of Cap'n Crunch.

    The state has since more clearly defined its rules, which still hold that the troopers' degrees were bogus.

    The case also hinges on a Spokane-based diploma mill that was issuing counterfeit degrees from hundreds of fake schools around the world, and whose owners were criminally prosecuted and sent to prison as a result. Lawyers for the troopers say the department "implied" a link from their client's fake-but-legal diplomas to the Spokane scam's fake-and-illegal ones.

    The move seems rather a ballsy slap in the face by the troopers, who were lucky to keep their jobs after the incident.

    Hopefully their lawyers aren't using fake law degrees, too.


  • University damaged reputation of Wales, says minister, BBC News, Wales, November 9, 2010.


    Education Minister Leighton Andrews has strongly criticised the University of Wales, accusing it of bringing Wales into ridicule and disrepute.

    His comments follow BBC Wales' Week In Week Out showed a Malaysian pop star with a bogus doctorate ran a college offering University of Wales courses.

    It also uncovered doubts about a college in Bangkok.

    Professor Nigel Palastanga, pro vice-chancellor of the university said it noted Mr Andrews' comments.

    He said: "We don't think the BBC Wales programme was a fair and accurate reflection of the University's international role, and we have already responded in detail to the specific points raised.

    "We have noted the comments the minister has made and our chairman will be responding directly."

    Mr Andrews said the university had to "get to grips" with the issues raised. The university has been asked to respond.

    Earlier Mr Andrews met Professor Marc Clement, the University's vice chancellor, at a meeting of senior figures from higher education in Wales.

    The minister told BBC Wales: "We are fed up with the University of Wales bringing the name of Wales into ridicule.

    "We want to see an end to this. We want to see high quality control within the institution."

    The programme revealed that Fazley Yaakob, who ran the Fazley International College (FICO) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was claiming to have both a masters and a doctorate in business administration. He stepped down following the programme.

    Bogus university

    But both came from a bogus university, and Thai authorities said Accademia Italiana, a fashion college offering University of Wales validated courses in Bangkok, Thailand, had been operating illegally.

    Mr Andrews said he had been in contact with the Higher Education Funding Council and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education about the revelations.

    He said: "The governance of the University of Wales will be under scrutiny in my higher education governance review."

    Mr Andrews said the university still had many "strong attributes".

    He added: "We want to see the University of Wales as a quality benchmark for higher education in Wales and internationally.

    "Associations with dubious bible colleges, associations with institutions whose leadership have bogus degrees, that brings the name of Wales into disrepute and it brings the University of Wales itself into disrepute.

    "I want to see that they are serious about this issue and they are getting to grips with it."


  • Concern at University of Wales overseas degrees, BBC News, Wales, November 9, 2010.


    The University of Wales announced it had suspended its involvement with Fazley International College, pending investigation

    A Malaysian pop star with a bogus doctorate has been running a college offering University of Wales degree courses, a BBC investigation shows.

    A Bangkok college that Thai authorities say has been operating illegally, is also offering courses leading to degrees from the Welsh institution.

    Week in Week Out examined the way in which the University of Wales validated courses in overseas institutions.

    The university said it was dealing "thoroughly" with the issues raised.

    The programme revealed that Fazley Yaakob, who runs the Fazley International College (FICO) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, was claiming to have both a masters and a doctorate in business administration.

    But both came from a bogus university.

    The pop star, who has four hit albums to his name, claimed the qualifications from the European Business School (Cambridge), an offshoot of the Irish International University, which was exposed as a sham by the BBC in 2008.

    He said the University of Wales did not ask about his credentials, which were displayed prominently on the college website until he was confronted by BBC Wales' education correspondent Ciaran Jenkins in Kuala Lumpur.

    No new admissions

    Professor Nigel Palastanga, pro vice chancellor at the University of Wales, said the university was "concerned" about the issues raised in the programme.

    "We are not happy about what is happening, we are dealing with it and will deal with it very thoroughly and will learn lessons from what has happened," he said.

    The University of Wales announced it had suspended its involvement with Fazley International College, and would take no new admissions to its business administration and MBA courses until the matter had been investigated.

    Professor Palastanga said there were no concerns about academic standards at the college.

    Meanwhile, Thai authorities said Accademia Italiana, a fashion college offering University of Wales validated courses in Bangkok, Thailand, had been operating illegally.

    Dr Sumate Yammoon, Secretary General of the Commission on Higher Education in Thailand, said last week that the matter was in the hands of the police.

    However, Professor Palastanga said the situation had now changed.

    'Run its course'

    "My information is that the college is now operating legally within the Thai system," he said.

    Jenny Randerson AM, the Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, said she believed the University of Wales had now "run its course" and that its remaining accredited institutions in Wales - Swansea Metropolitan University, UWIC, Glyndwr University, Trinity Saint David and University of Wales, Newport - could operate independently.

    Universities in Wales are bracing themselves for the outcome of a review into the governance of higher education, ordered by Education Minister Leighton Andrews.

    He has now instructed the review to look at the issues raised in the Week In Week Out programme.

    Cardiff University left the University of Wales in 2004 while the universities of Bangor, Swansea and Aberystwyth decided to offer their own degrees in 2008.

    Severed ties

    In November 2008, a BBC Wales Dragon's Eye investigation showed that the University of Wales validated courses run by a controversial bible college in the United States.

    The university severed its ties with Trinity College of the Bible in Newburgh, Indiana shortly before the programme was broadcast.

    Professor Palastanga said it was "not good" for the university's reputation when things went wrong, however he stressed it worked continually with its partners to uphold standards.

    The University of Wales validates courses in more than 100 colleges in more than 40 countries.

    There are currently 70,000 students studying for University of Wales degrees worldwide.

    The university said the profits from its international validation programmes were invested in Welsh higher education.

    Responding to a question from Jenny Randerson AM on the investigation, First Minister Carwyn Jones told the assembly the education minister has already asked the review of HE governance to look into this matter.

    "Primarily, it's an issue for the University of Wales and its reputation," Mr Jones told AMs.

    "So it's exceptionally important that the University of Wales takes note of the allegations that have been made, and then of course takes steps to ensure that if the allegations are correct, that there is no opportunity for anybody to use the name of the University of Wales in an inappropriate way."


  • Director resigns after University of Wales concerns, BBC News, Wales, November 9, 2010.


    The executive director of a Malaysian college offering University of Wales degree courses has resigned after questions about his own qualifications.

    Fazley Yaakob, a pop star who runs the Fazley International College (FIC) in Kuala Lumpur, has two degrees from a bogus university.

    Week In Week Out examined the way in which the University of Wales validated courses in overseas institutions.

    The university has said concerns relate solely to Yaakob and not the courses.

    The programme reveals that Yaakob claimed to have both a masters and a doctorate in business administration. But both were from a bogus university.

    Yaakob, who has four hit albums to his name, claimed to have qualifications from the European Business School (Cambridge), an offshoot of the Irish International University - which was exposed as a sham by the BBC in 2008.

    He said the University of Wales did not ask about his credentials, which were displayed prominently on the college website, until he was confronted by BBC Wales' education correspondent Ciaran Jenkins in Kuala Lumpur.

    In his resignation letter, Yaakob said: "My role in Fazley International College is one of an investor.

    "Though I hold a director's position, I have never been a part of the academic team nor have I sat at any of the academic meetings.

    "As such, you can be assured that at no stage was the academic standards or the reputation of the university put at a compromise. To be honest I have only sat in at management meetings.

    "Upon further reflection, I consider that to continue as a director could be damaging to the college, its student community and the dedicated staff who have worked hard to uphold the academic standards and integrity.

    "It is quite clear that this continuing public controversy will undermine the reputation and the good relations between the college and the university, which I cannot, in any circumstances, allow.

    'Public confidence'

    "Therefore, I have decided to tender my resignation as the executive director of the college.

    "It is my intention to keep fighting to clear my name and restore public confidence of my reputation.

    "I sincerely apologise for having caused the university and its officials embarrassment.

    "I do hope that the matter will be laid to rest and that the link between the university and FIC can be restored."

    The University of Wales has suspended its relationship with the college - one of three educational institutions it collaborates with in Malaysia - following the controversy.

    The university signed an agreement with FIC in 2007 and saw the first students admitted to its validated courses the following year, having gained provisional approvals from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency.

    But it has now decided not to recognise any additional admissions to its BA (Hons) Business Administration and MBA courses at the college until concerns have been fully investigated. The 35 students currently enrolled on University-validated courses will not be affected.

    University vice chancellor Marc Clement said: "The principal doesn't himself teach on the course and I don't want to pre-judge the case, but I've taken this decision as a precaution to protect the reputation of the University of Wales.

    "We are proud of the work we're doing internationally to take the educational values of a great Welsh institution to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to study on validated courses, and it is important this mission isn't diluted by doubts about any of collaborative centres.

    "Our validation team is experienced and highly skilled and travels regularly to collaborative centres to check the quality of the provision and work with local people to build capacity.

    "Their job is to validate the courses we recognise, not the institution itself, and we're confident the university's validated courses at FIC meet our high academic standards.

    "Our concern relates solely to the fact that the head of the institution has informed us of a controversy relating to his personal academic qualifications.

    "This would not normally be relevant to the validation process, but we feel we have a duty to go beyond the letter of our rules so that the integrity of our courses is beyond any doubt."

    The University is the second largest degree awarding body in the UK after the University of London. In 2010, it awarded 20,000 degrees and other awards and had around 70,000 people studying on its courses, of which 13,704 were on validated programmes outside the UK.


  • EDITORIAL: Carrillo endorsement retracted. OUR VIEW: Diploma mill flap enough to cost Vista candidate our support, Editorial, San Diego, California North Cunty Times, October 28, 2010.


    Mario Carrillo has made a fatal political error: He has claimed as legitimate two degrees from a diploma mill in the United Kingdom.

    And for that, we withdraw our endorsement of his candidacy for Vista City Council.

    A reporter from The San Diego Union-Tribune raised the issue in a story last week.

    Monday, Carrillo told a North County Times reporter that he isn't convinced the degrees are not legitimate. "I paid tuition, I took the courses and I received my degree, just like I would do for any extension course," he said.

    Carrillo said the university told him that the three classes and work performed at Palomar College in the 1970s were enough for the bachelor's degree and that his work experience as a musician qualified him for a master's degree. The university granted him the diplomas "retroactive" to 1978 and 1980, he said.

    All of this is flat-out unbelievable ---- no reasonably well-educated person could buy this with a straight face.

    Unfortunately, Carrillo's apparent lack of understanding about the diploma mills or the seriousness of the issue betrays a real problem: If he doesn't understand that a couple of "courses" and $1,700 doesn't a university education make, what else doesn't he understand?

    The city of Vista is a complex enterprise with a $118.5 million operating budget and a complex redevelopment district. The health of a city and its residents ride on the decisions of the council.

    Because of this, we withdraw our endorsement.

    We have previously endorsed John Aguilera and stand by that pick.

    For the second council seat, Tom Fleming has been active in civic affairs for years, including a stint as president of the Vista Village Business Association. He is fiscally conservative and understands the needs for prudent budget decisions in this economy.

    We urge voters to give Fleming a look.


  • Vista council candidate removes degree reference from website: Carrillo says he was duped by school once dubbed "the Granddaddy of diploma mill operations," Aaron Burgin, San Diego Union-Tribune, October 22, 2010.


    A Vista City Council candidate who has touted his business degree in his campaign has removed mention of it from his website after being questioned by The U-T about the school’s legitimacy.

    Mario Carrillo, 54, received his diploma from a group that the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2004 dubbed “the Granddaddy of diploma mill operations.”

    “I feel duped,” Carrillo said. “The only thing I can tell the voters is that they were a legitimate institution, and no one has ever questioned me about my degree. All I can say is that I’m human and I apologize.”

    Carrillo is an accomplished musician and songwriter who owns a recording studio in the city’s downtown. He is an advocate of greater offerings for Vista’s youth and young adults, and is one of the most prominent local voices supporting Vista’s development of a new skate park.

    Carrillo is running for elected office for the first time. He received endorsements from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County and the North County Times.

    On his website, he had listed a bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Shaftesbury University received in 1978. He also has mentioned his MBA in City Council forums as part of his qualifications for the elected position. Carrillo also noted his MBA in his candidate statement that appears on the sample ballot. “After I earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, I moved to Vista where I have lived for over 30 years.”

    The statement conflicts with Carrillo’s explanation of events that led to his receiving the diploma. Carrillo said he called the college in the early 1990s to ask how he could obtain a degree. The university explained that it would combine his previous college credits — he took classes at Palomar College in the 1970s — with his job experience as a musician to achieve the credits needed to obtain a degree. Carrillo said he then paid a tuition fee, and then after a short home course, mailed him his diploma and transcripts, all retroactive to the 1970s.

    “I didn’t see anything fraudulent about it at all,” he said. “They were giving me credit for the work I had done in the professional field. This is the way they explained it to me, and I trusted them. Again, I feel ashamed and disappointed.”

    The candidate statement cannot be changed because the sample ballots have been mailed to voters, Vista officials said.

    Carrillo also claimed to have taken upper graduate courses at University of California, Los Angeles, but he actually took a songwriting course through the UCLA Extension, not the university. Carrillo said he didn’t know there was a distinction.

    Shaftesbury University is part of a consortium of unaccredited universities called the University Degree Programs run by Jason and Caroline Abraham starting in the 1990s. According to the 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education article, sales people at call centers in Romania and Israel recruited students over the telephone. In the past, recipients of their degrees have been prosecuted for fraud in connection with the use of their degree for employment.

    Unlike many distance-learning education programs, such as University of Phoenix and Kaplan College, UDP students reportedly can pay for their degrees without completing course work. The operation was estimated to have sold more than 30,000 “degrees” and received proceeds totaling $50 million to $100 million, according to the Chronicle report.

    People are not required to have a college degree or high school diploma to seek elected office. In Vista, like most municipalities, candidates are only required to be 18, registered voters and residents.

    A leading political reform expert said that while Carrillo did the right thing by removing the mention of the degree from his website, he is skeptical that Carrillo was oblivious to the school’s questionable background.

    “A legitimate school would have you attend classes and would not issue a degree retroactively,” said Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, a nonpartisan government think tank.

    University Degree Program representatives could not be reached for comment.


  • Diploma mills issue worthless credentials, Dan DeWitt, St. Petersburg, Florida St. Petersburg Times, October 24, 2010.


    When I first asked Lisa Hammond about her doctorate degree a couple of weeks ago, what mainly interested me was what she said after acknowledging she had received it from an unaccredited school.

    Having a doctorate "is important to me," said Hammond, 53, who is paid a $55-per-hour consulting fee as a county contract monitor. "I plan to get another one."

    She made it sound as if this was a goal like running a marathon — ambitious, but nothing that had to disrupt her life. And I wondered, can studying for a doctorate really be a part-time gig? Can you place what novelist Henry James called "those three magic letters" — Ph.D. — behind your name without the traditional two or three arduous years of class work and at least that many more years writing an original, book-length dissertation?

    Yeah, sure, higher education experts told me, especially if you don't care about learning. And judging from the Senate testimony of a Coast Guard officer named Claudia Gelzer, Hammond wouldn't have had to learn much to get her doctorate from Kennedy-Western University.

    Gelzer enrolled at the online California school as part of a federal investigation into diploma mills. She was promptly awarded more than half the credits she needed for a master's degree in environmental engineering, based on her work experience, she told a Senate committee in 2004.

    "They asked for no proof or documentation," she said. And, "as a note, I have no formal engineering training."

    Gelzer quickly picked up more credits by passing open-book exams, the answers for which could often be found in the books' glossaries. George Gollin, a University of Illinois physics professor who has made a sideline of exposing diploma mills, said it appears Gelzer could have finished all of her master's degree requirements in one 40-hour work week — even without receiving credit for life experience.

    "To my mind, that makes Kennedy-Western a diploma mill, end of story," he said.

    My favorite quote about the proliferation of advanced degrees came from a Washington Post story: "These days, Ph.D.'s are like opinions and pie holes — pretty much everybody's got one." That was in 2002. Due mostly to the increased reach of the Internet, the situation is worse now, Gollin said.

    He estimated in 2007 that diploma mills issued between 100,000 and 200,000 university degrees annually. About a third were at the doctoral level, a number rivaling the 48,000 legitimate doctorates issued in 2008, according to a study by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

    Even that figure may be inflated by questionable degrees awarded by for-profit universities that "have their roots in dog grooming and cosmetology and, over the past decade, have tried to move up the food chain," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers.

    In Hammond's case, the questions don't stop with the quality of the institution. In a resume she sent to the Times about three weeks ago, when Clerk of the Circuit Court Karen Nicolai offered her a full-time $105,000-a-year job (she's since been bumped back down to consultant, but could still make that much money in a year), Hammond claimed a Florida teaching certificate in psychology and economics.

    Her teaching qualification has since expired, Hammond said Friday, though she didn't say that on the resume.

    Also, Times researcher Shirl Kennedy found the state doesn't issue certificates in those fields, and Hammond makes no mention of them in a 2009 application to serve on the Early Learning Coalition of Hernando and Pasco — just that in 1999 she received a "temporary educator's certificate."

    Weeks after it was first requested, Hammond, who also serves as chairwoman of the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission, still hasn't produced a transcript from the Southern Africa Policy Institute in Zimbabwe — from which she claims a "post graduate diploma" on her most recent resume. Nor could she provide a phone number or e-mail address. Researcher Kennedy found no evidence the institute even existed.

    Kennedy-Western did exist, though it changed its name to Warren National University in 2007. It closed in March 2009, which happens to be the month Hammond received her degree.

    Much of Hammond's work experience checked out, as did her undergraduate degree. And she has generally been praised for her performance with the county.

    So maybe it's not fair to label her a fraud. But it is fair to say that phony degrees are a way of dishonestly extracting money. That's usually the whole point, Nassirian said.

    Doctorates were once mostly just for academics, he said, and the "perceived value has increased because there are now so many fields in which a Ph.D. is highly lucrative."

    When the degree is fake, the employer is stuck with a worker who may be unqualified and is certainly untrustworthy. And in Hammond's case, fellow Hernando taxpayers, that employer is us.


  • Admiral program not so shipshape , Paul Goodsell, Omaha, Nebraska, World-Herald, October 10, 2010.


    Most of the 100,000 admirals in Nebraska's "Great Navy" hold the lighthearted honor because they've done something for the state in large or small ways.

    But there's a less savory, unmerited side to Nebraska admiralships.

    At least in recent years, it turns out, some people have found membership in the Nebraska Navy to be an easy way to pad résumés and burnish reputations.

    Increasingly, the admiralships are showing up in the hands of African rulers, people who work with diploma mills and others with no significant ties to Nebraska.

    The World-Herald has discovered that some awards are collected and distributed through a web of non-Nebraskans who submit numerous nominations. In at least one case, there is an allegation that an admiralship was sold for $2,600.

    Former State Sen. Kermit Brashear of Omaha, who is a Nebraska admiral, said he feels bad that some people are tainting the program.

    "It's a long, rich tradition until it goes amok," Brashear said.

    Earlier this month, The World-Herald reported that a Nebraska admiralship had been given to Yahya Jammeh, president of Gambia. Jammeh has been criticized for human rights violations.

    Gov. Dave Heineman never intended to honor Jammeh. Instead, a San Francisco man requested the admiralship, and Heineman's staff processed it with little scrutiny. The Governor's Office has handled 7,000 or so certificates since Heineman took office in 2005, continuing a tradition that has been in effect since the 1930s.

    Heineman has said it wouldn't be a good use of time or money to investigate each nomination, especially since the vast majority are legitimate.

    Yet that leaves plenty of opportunity for non-Nebraskans to take advantage of the system.

    The World-Herald examined a list of admiralships issued since Heineman took office in 2005 and discovered:


    • A second African ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, is on the list. A Slate magazine article in 2008 described Obiang as "Africa's worst dictator," outdoing even Zimbabwe's notorious Robert Mugabe.


    • The Iranian-born San Francisco man who nominated Jammeh earlier this year, Nasser Heydarian, has nominated at least 10 other admirals. None apparently has any Nebraska ties.


    • Heydarian reportedly was paid $2,600 for the Jammeh admiralship, although he emphatically denies that.


    • At least 14 admirals from outside Nebraska are linked to unaccredited universities that have been criticized as diploma mills, or to groups that have endorsed some of those questionable schools.

    It might be hard for Nebraskans to believe that the admiralship, which confers tongue-in-cheek authority over "seamen, tadpoles and goldfish," could be in much demand among those who have no allegiance to the state.

    Nevertheless, admiralships show up on résumés all over the world.

    "It's a big thing for some people," said Robert Ray Hill of Kentucky. "Do I have it on my résumé? I think I might."

    Stephen R. Barnhart certainly does. Barnhart, who runs a security service in Kansas City, includes the Nebraska honor on his lengthy list of accolades and diplomas, including a number of advanced degrees from unaccredited schools. He also notes that he is a professor for several such institutions. Barnhart did not return telephone calls from the newspaper.

    But others interviewed last week say the Nebraska admiralship — certified by the state's governor, after all — adds an extra bit of credibility for those who want to embellish their qualifications. It may help those who pitch higher education degrees, and it can help curry favor with foreign leaders who control business opportunities.

    A number of non-Nebraskans with recent admiralships are members of the same organizations.

    For example, Heydarian, Hill and Barnhart are listed as "full professorship holders" with the International University of Fundamental Studies, an unaccredited school.

    Similarly, The World-Herald also found at least eight admirals have been linked to the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an Italian organization. That includes Barnhart and Heydarian, as well as the leaders of Gambia and Equatorial Guinea, who are considered "international vice presidents."

    In an interview, Heydarian said he nominated Jammeh for the admiralship at the request of Georg Reiff, a German man who works with the Italian group. Heydarian also obtained an admiralship for Reiff.

    Heydarian, who said he is a medical doctor but is not licensed to practice in the United States, said the original deal was that he could go to Gambia to present the award and perhaps provide some humanitarian assistance. In the end, however, he was cut out of the Gambia trip.

    "They're going over there to get some credit for themselves," an angry Heydarian said. "I did this favor because they asked me to do it. They are no good. They are using me."

    Reiff could not be reached directly for comment. But Hill — who had nominated Heydarian for his admiralship in 2006 —said Reiff told him that Heydarian had demanded $2,600 in payment in April for Jammeh's certificate.

    According to Hill, Reiff said he had no choice but to pay because he already had told the Gambian strongman that the admiralship was coming.

    "This is absolutely ridiculous," Heydarian replied. "They're playing a dirty game. I never got a penny."

    Heydarian said Nebraska's governor should simply void Jammeh's admiralship.

    Controversy aside, Brashear said the Nebraska Navy is intended to be a way "to wrap people together in terms of a moment of humor and honor." As speaker of the Legislature, Brashear said, he served a few hours as acting governor in 2006 and doled out numerous admiralships to friends, acquaintances and relatives, including his wife.

    But he said there's no reason to name admirals who have no relationship with Nebraska or its residents. He said it is up to Heineman to decide whether the rules need to be tightened.

    "After all, he is the admiral of all admirals," Brashear said. "He'll have to protect the fleet."

    Georg Reiff was a St. Regis University "professor." The St. Regis web site held a link to his "dissertation," titled "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire."

    This too:

    Nebraska Navy has 'unsavory despot', Paul Goodsell and Andrea Vasquez, Omaha, Nebraska, World-Herald, October 2, 2010.


    For decades, Nebraska governors have handed out thousands of admiralships in the mythical "Great Navy of Nebraska" — a way to honor celebrities, heroes and ordinary citizens.

    Astronauts John Glenn and Clayton Anderson. Entertainers Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. Local school board members and police officers.

    Now you can add African strongman Yahya Jammeh.

    The new admiral, who is the president of Gambia, has been criticized for alleged human rights violations and has said he would "cut off the head" of any homosexuals found in the country.

    "This is a real unsavory despot," said Frank Smyth of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based organization that tries to raise awareness of press freedom issues around the world.

    So the group was shocked last month when a smiling Jammeh was photographed holding the gold-framed certificate from Gov. Dave Heineman.

    It isn't clear whether Jammeh read the entire tongue-in-cheek proclamation, which ordered all "seamen, tadpoles and goldfish" to obey the admiral.

    Or whether he knew that Nebraska has no fleet — other than the floating covered wagon depicted on the certificate.

    While the certificate declares that the honoree is "a good person and a loyal friend and counselor," Heineman doesn't know the Gambian president, never approved the admiralship and did not personally sign the certificate.

    Nor did anyone on Heineman's staff give more than cursory attention to Jammeh's nomination, requested by a man in San Francisco.

    It was one of more than 7,000 admiralships bestowed by Heineman since he took office in 2005.

    "It's just not feasible for us to do background checks," said Jen Rae Hein, a spokeswoman for the governor. "This is in no way an endorsement from Nebraska of this person's politics."

    The governor personally gives a handful of admiralships — perhaps a dozen or so per year — to visiting dignitaries or other noteworthy people, Hein said. Nearly all the awards are handled by staff members, who process nominations by state senators and others who want to honor people for their contributions to the state.

    Guidelines posted on the governor's website say either the nominator or nominee must be from Nebraska, but Hein said any current admiral can nominate anyone else, even if neither is from Nebraska.

    That was the case with Jammeh's nomination. It arrived in January from Nasser Heydarian, who described himself as a medical doctor but used a San Francisco coffee shop as his mailing address.

    Hein said Heydarian did not identify Jammeh as the Gambian president but gave this reason for making him an admiral: "He is very good with poor people and always he is helping them."

    Heineman had honored Heydarian as an admiral in 2006, after a nomination from Robert Ray Hill of Kentucky.

    Hill has worked for organizations criticized as being "diploma mills."

    And a Wikia website identifies Heydarian as president of the "Dominion of Melchizedek," a so-called "cyber-nation" that allegedly is a haven for banking fraud.

    It's unclear whether Hill has Nebraska connections or whether he is a Nebraska admiral. Heydarian and Hill could not be reached for comment.

    Hein said Jammeh's certificate was mailed to Heydarian at the coffee shop address in February, although it was dated Sept. 10 as requested.

    Last month, the certificate was delivered to Jammeh by a representative of the International Parliament for Safety and Peace, an Italian organization that has drawn criticism for recognizing diploma mills.

    The group also passed along two other "awards" to Jammeh, purportedly from President Barack Obama. A U.S. State Department official said Friday that the White House had no connection with those awards.

    Jammeh's honors were publicized in the Gambian press and soon drew attention from outside groups. The Committee to Protect Journalists initially was concerned that Obama and others were giving awards to Jammeh but later concluded that no honors were intended.

    The admiralship isn't Jammeh's first state award: Kentucky's governor made him an honorary "Kentucky colonel" in 2008.

    Giving admiralships is a long-standing tradition for Nebraska governors. Hein said she didn't know how many were awarded under Heineman's predecessor, Mike Johanns, but staff members who worked for both governors told her the pace is about the same.

    Nebraska has no process for rescinding the honor, she said.

    Staffers try to catch the most questionable nominations, such as those requested for pets, Hein said. Otherwise, she said, little investigation is done, and few requests are denied. Nominations from current admirals are automatically approved.

    "I don't know if it's always going to be automatic now," Hein said.

    "There are going to be some people that game the system, but that is not something we endorse. We are relying on the good faith practices of Nebraskans and of those nominating their fellow citizens."


  • State Rep. Jennifer Carroll Officially Named GOP Lt. Governor Nominee, Steve Bousquet, St. Petersburg/Tallahassee., Florida, St. Petersburg Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau, September 2, 2010. Note that Ms. Carroll had claimed a degree from the "Kensington University" diploma mill.


    Rick Scott made it official this morning, introducing state Rep. Jennifer Carroll as his running mate on the Republican ticket for governor.

    "I am honored that Jennifer is the first African-American Republican woman to be part of a statewide ticket in Florida," Scott wrote in a letter to supporters.

    "Jennifer Carroll is the embodiment of the American Dream. She came to America as a young girl, decided to serve her country with the United States Navy, pursued a higher education, started a small business, and then was elected the first African American female Republican in the Florida State Legislature."

    Carroll, 51, joined Scott on a campaign fly-around beginning in Jacksonville, a major hub of Republican voters near Carroll's home in Fleming Island. Stops were planned later today in Orlando and Tampa.

    The campaign unfurled a "Scott Carroll" placard as Scott and Carroll stood on a platform outside the Jacksonville Naval Air Station, with a Blue Angel jet in the background. Carroll's husband Nolan and two of their three children were on hand, along with Scott's wife, Ann.

    "Jennifer has an inspiring story to tell," Scott said.

    Noting that Carroll was the first African-American Republican woman in the Legislature, Scott called her a "barrier-breaker."

    Carroll, wearing a bright red suit, said she likes Scott's "energetic leadership," and added: "He is totally committed to turning around the economic conditions of this state." But she at first said Scott's "7-7-7" plan would create 7,000 jobs over seven years, not the 700,000 Scott is promising.

    Carroll was a supporter of Bill McCollum in the primary, and said she kept her word and that his jobs message resonated with her. Scott declined to discuss the vetting process in detail.

    "We're both outsiders and we both come from humble beginnings," Scott said. "Jennifer is clearly not perceived to be an insider."

    Asked to cite her proudest accomplishment as a legislator, Carroll asked reporters to "look at my resume," and cited her work in lowering the burden on businesses in Florida.

    In choosing Carroll, Scott, himself a Navy veteran, gets a woman with a distinctive personal story who could neutralize the gender appeal of his Democratic opponent, state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink:


    • In a state where one in every seven voters is black — and nearly all of them Democrats — Carroll is an African-American Republican.
    • As a native of Trinidad, Carroll is an immigrant who could help soften Scott's hard-line image on an issue that cuts both ways in a state with a large immigrant population.
    • She packs a celebrity punch: Her son, Nolan II, is a rookie cornerback and kick returner for the Miami Dolphins, drafted out of the University of Maryland.

    Carroll made Gov. Charlie Crist's short list of possible running mates in 2006. She was also among those listed as possible successors to Mel Martinez, who resigned his U.S. Senate seat last year.

    Sink's running mate is Rod Smith, 60, a former state senator and elected state attorney from Alachua County who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2006.

    Carroll moved to Florida in 1986. She and her husband, Nolan, have three children.

    She became the first black woman elected to the Legislature in a special election in 2003.

    She retired after 20 years in the Navy, where she rose to the rank of lieutenant commander aviation maintenance officer.

    She has a bachelor's degree from the University of New Mexico and a master's degree in business administration from Saint Leo University in Pasco County.

    Her official legislative biography notes that she is a lifelong member of both the NAACP and the National Rifle Association.

    Her record is not free of blemishes, however.

    Six years ago, after news reports said that she listed a degree from an online "diploma mill," Kensington University in California, she dropped the reference from her official resume.

    "This causes me great concern," Carroll told the Florida Times-Union in 2004. "It's a lot of time, effort and money poured into a university I thought was a viable program."

    See also: Top Officials Hold Fake Degrees: Vince Gonzales Probes Diploma Mills And Some Federal Officials Who've Benefitted From Them, Jaime Holguin, CBS Evening News, Los Angeles, May 10, 2004.
    They are safety engineers at nuclear power plants and biological weapons experts. They work at NATO headquarters, at the Pentagon and at nearly every other federal agency. And, as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports, they're employees with degrees from phony schools.

    "These degrees aren't worth the paper that they're printed on," says one insider, who asked CBS News to protect his identity.

    The man worked at a so-called diploma mill where students pay a lot of money to get a degree online or through the mail for little or no work.

    He says he's not surprised to know that there are people working at almost every level of government who have degrees from these types of operations.

    Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Abell has a master's from Columbus University, a diploma mill Louisiana shut down. Deputy Assistant Secretary Patricia Walker lists among her degrees, a bachelor's from Pacific Western, a diploma mill banned in Oregon and under investigation in Hawaii.

    CBS News requested interviews with both officials. The Pentagon turned us down, saying, "We don't consider it an issue."

    But using such a degree is a crime in some states. Alan Contreras cracks down on diploma mills for Oregon, a state that's taken the lead on this issue.

    "You don't want somebody with a fake degree working in Homeland Security," says Contreras. "You don't want somebody with a fake degree teaching your children or designing your bridges."

    But we found employees with diploma mill degrees at the new Transportation Security Administration, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Departments of Treasury and Education, where Rene Drouin sits on an advisory committee. He has degrees from two diploma mills including Kensington University.

    Kensington was forced out of business by officials in California and Hawaii. Another Kensington alum, Florida State Rep. Jennifer Carroll, just stepped down from the National Commission on Presidential Scholars.

    Both Carroll and Drouin say they worked hard and thought their degrees were legitimate.

    "The students are being sold a bill of goods that really don't help them at all," the insider says. "There are slick people out there, and it's happening every day, every minute probably somewhere in America."

    And taxpayers have paid for bogus degrees some workers used for hiring, promotions and raises


  • International universities you must avoid, Sam Otieno, Nairobi, Kenya, The Standard, July 23, 2010.


    Kenyans have been cautioned against enrolling in five international universities purporting to offer degrees and diplomas.

    Yesterday, the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) said Bircham International University, Dublin Metropolitan University and Dorcas International Theological College are not authorised to offer degree programmes.

    Unaccredited programmes

    Others that are operating illegally in the country include America World University as well as Nation University US. CHE boss Everret Standa said qualifications from such institutions would not be recognised.

    "The public is cautioned against institutions that are offering dubious, unaccredited degree and diploma programmes," said Prof Standa.

    The alert comes barely a week after The Standard exposed activities of the United Graduates College and Seminary, which has been dishing out honorary degrees to prominent Kenyans.

    The institutions, Standa said, are not allowed to offer the degrees and diplomas either on their own or in collaboration with universities abroad.

    According to the commission, Bircham International University is not accredited by any recognised accreditation agency in the US. It has also not been granted authority by CHE to collaborate with any institution in Kenya to offer any university education.

    On the other hand, Dublin Metropolitan University is also not accredited by any recognised accreditation agency in Britain, and has also not been granted authority by CHE to collaborate with any local institution.

    Authority to collaborate

    Standa also cautioned that Dorcas International Theological College has not sought nor has it been granted authority to collaborate with any institution either locally or abroad to offer and award any degree level education and qualifications.

    "Nations University, which it purports to collaborate with, does not appear in the list of institutions in USA accredited through any of the accrediting agencies recognised by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation in USA," he said.

    Therefore, degrees issued by the theological college are not recognised in Kenya, said Standa.

    There are seven public universities and 13 constituent colleges


  • US university dishing out degrees to Kenyans under probe, Sam Otieno in Nairobi and Chris Wamalwa In Philadelphia, USA, Nairobi, Kenya, The Standard, July 18, 2010.


    A US-based college involved in a controversial dishing out of honorary degrees to prominent Kenyans is now the subject of a Federal Bureau of Investigations probe.

    The state of Tennessee Department of Education through its education Commission has already launched investigations into the activities of United Graduate College and Seminary.

    Speaking to The Standard on Sunday on telephone from Nashville US, an official from the Commissioner of Education office who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media, said the commission has launched its own investigations to get to the bottom of the saga.

    Asked whether they will involve the FBI he said, "In such cases that go beyond our borders, we definitely have to involve the local security agencies including the FBI office."

    But he was categorical that the United Graduate College and Seminary has no authority to operate in Tennessee.

    It also termed claims that the college is fully endorsed as "wrong and misleading".

    But faced with heavy criticism, the colleges’ chief chancellor Prof Clyde Rivers said the institution would dish out more than 2,000 doctorate degrees to Kenyans by the end of next year.

    He said he would not be dissuaded by Press reports questioning the credibility of his institution and vowed to continue with his work. He said it should not be a crime to bring honour to many people.

    "I have not come here to put up any university, but to honour Kenyans who would otherwise not be recognised," said Rivers.


  • Kenya: Honorary Degrees Raise Eyebrows, Mugumo Munene and Kevin Kelley,, July 15, 2010.


    New York — A string of VIPs in Kenya and around Africa could have paid thousands of dollars to three Americans liberally giving out doctorate degrees to the unsung heroes of Africa.

    The letters inviting the selected men and women for the academic honour also asked them to make contributions towards the travel and accommodation expenses of the visiting Americans.

    In one instance, the Daily Nation learnt that they asked a potential beneficiary to contribute about Sh240,000 ($3,000) to arrange for the award ceremony. The college's Chancellor of Educational Development Worldwide, Prof Clyde Rivers, at first told the Daily Nation in an interview that his team paid its own way but later admitted that the group had been asking for money.

    "We pay our own way... We feel so passionate about Africa that we do it ourselves," said had Prof Rivers. The Daily Nation then confronted him with details that the letters they had been sending out to potential beneficiaries would often close with a request for money and he accepted that it was indeed true.

    "We do ask people to cover our hotel. We spend $2,500 to $6,000 to fly here. We ask for that to help cost share. If someone says no, we don't disregard him. I'm just here to truly honour Africa," said Prof Rivers, flanked by two of his colleagues, a mother and her daughter.

    And in an ironic twist of events, the president of the United Graduate College and Seminary, Dr Dorothy Wisor, said that she did not know how many students were enrolled in the university and had admitted that they do not have a physical campus anywhere in the US.

    The college president said she did not have much details about the college because she only took up her job three weeks ago and had only a short while ago married the founder, Dr Martin Wisor.

    The representatives of the internet-based institution have been on a spree around Africa, giving honorary doctorate degrees to the high and mighty. The list of those who have been honoured include House Speaker Kenneth Marende and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

    Honorary degrees are usually given by universities to men and women for extraordinary achievements and are usually conferred at university campuses during graduation ceremonies.Neither Mr Marende nor Mr Musyoka had commented on the conferment of the degrees or whether they had given any money to the Americans despite repeated attempts by the Daily Nation to contact them through their aides.

    Further afield, the Americans claim to have conferred the honorary degrees to Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet, Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano.

    The university has also honoured the founder of the anti-jigger campaign in Kenya, Mr Stanely Kamau, former Nairobi mayor Joe Aketch and former Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation chairperson Zipporah Kittony.

    The university is represented in Kenya by one-time Nairobi mayor Nathan Kahara who signs correspondence as a professor with a string of abbreviated titles after his name.

    It is copied to Bishop Arthur Kitonga who is designated as professor and named the Special Advisor Worldwide. Prof Rivers said the institution would honour as many Africans as deserved it and said that they had contacted "Nelson Mandela's people" for the possibility of issuing him with a honorary doctorate.

    He said he had been working in Africa since 2005 and had active programmes in Ghana, Mozambique, South Africa and Ghana.Prof Rivers said he had "discovered" that African achievers were hardly honoured and had decided to fill the gap.

    His team was also driven by the realisation that many pastors were operating without academic credentials even though they had devoted their life in service to the Christian ministry. He said that despite the many honorary degrees awarded, they maintained a rigorous process and that through the Internet, their reach was global.

    Prof Rivers admitted that his institution's Web site did not measure up to international standards and turned the blame on "people from the Third World" whom he claimed had hacked into the site and fraudulently made money out of it.

    He said the college would be building a new Web site. He was accompanied at the half-hour interview by Prof Michal Pitzl, the colleges Chancellor of Education Development Worldwide and her daughter, Prof Donella Pitzl, the Vice Chancellor for communications. In Burundi, President Nkurunziza has appointed Prof Rivers as the country's honorary consul to the state of California.

    Although the three American professors said that their headquarters were in Jonesborough, Tennessee, their business cards give an address in Victorville California, which is approximately 3,500 kilometres away by road or about seven times the distance between Nairobi and Mombasa.

    Though it is at the discretion of a university to confer honorary degrees as they wish, most universities jealously guard the issuance and limit them to maximise their impact. The college's founder, Dr Wisor, said the "college" was able to operate anywhere because all the courses it offered were conducted online.

    He also admitted that the college did not have a physical campus. At first she was hesitant to speak, saying she didn't know much about the college's workings because she'd only recently landed the job as its head. She said she was married a little while ago to Dr Martin Wisor, named on the college's Web site as the college's founder.

    According to her, the college was established in 1985. Dr Dorothy Wisor also told the Daily Nation on telephone that the college did award many honorary degrees, and those that it gave were in recognition of "humanitarian services the recipients have provided to people in their countries" and because of "their service to God."

    She also said that recipients had to be Christians. Asked whether the college was fully accredited, she said it was "fully endorsed."It appears that the college was what is referred to pejoratively in the US as a "diploma mill" -- meaning students can get a degree without doing much work as long as they paid whatever was required.

    On its Web site, it says that the United Graduate College and Seminary is "fully endorsed by the United Association of Christian Churches and Ministries International" (UACCMI). On the UACCMI website, Dr Martin Wisor is listed as the association's founder and CEO while Dr Dorothy Wisor is listed as president of United Graduate College and Seminary. It turns out that the college that Dr Martin Wisor founded was "fully endorsed" by the association that Dr Martin Wisor founded.



  • Psychologist who worked for Saratoga County Public Defender’s Office, Family Court, charged with falsifying credentials, Emily Donohue, Saratog Springs, NY, The Saratogian, June 6, 2010.


    A man who worked as a psychologist for the Saratoga County Public Defender’s Office and the Saratoga County Family Court was arrested by New York State Police Friday, accused of forging his degrees and other credentials.

    Steven Feldman faces four felony charges: grand larceny, scheme to defraud, falsifying business records and offering a false statement. He is scheduled to appear in Ballston Spa Village Court Monday afternoon. The case will likely ultimately end up in Saratoga County Court.

    According to District Attorney James A. Murphy III, Feldman "claimed he had certain degrees … and professional certifications that he does not allegedly have. He also claims he graduated from schools that State Police have advised are diploma mills."

    According to Murphy, the Public Defender’s Office and Family Court used Feldman’s services to evaluate people petitioning the court or those accused of crimes.

    Murphy said he believes State Police were notified about Feldman’s suspicious credentials by a person referred to Feldman for evaluation by a Family Court judge. That man researched Feldman’s credentials and came across evidence that one of the schools, Hamilton University, is not an accredited institution, Murphy said.

    As an alleged Hamilton University alum, Feldman joins the ranks of Laura Callahan, the former senior director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, who purchased bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the college and used them to further her career in government, according to a 2004 "60 Minutes" report.

    The report described Hamilton University, located in Evanston, Wyo., as little more than an office with a few clerical workers. A former employee is quoted as saying she never saw a single teacher at the school. According to that news report, the "college" also operates a small church, which qualifies it as a tax-free institution.

    In 2004, managing director of the Government Accountability Office’s office of Special Investigations, Robert J. Cramer, addressed a Congressional subcommittee on the topic of diploma mills. He mentioned Hamilton University specifically in his testimony.

    "Diploma mills frequently use names similar to those used by accredited schools, which often allows the diploma mills to be mistaken for accredited schools," Cramer said. "For example, Hamilton University … which is not accredited by any accrediting body … has a name similar to Hamilton College, a fully accredited school in Clinton, New York."

    Hamilton University’s website, which has since been taken down but is available through an archival website, indicated it was founded in 1976.

    The website also states that the school is accredited through the American Council of Private Colleges and Universities, which is not approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

    The District Attorney’s Office never used Feldman’s services, Murphy said. The vetting process for psychologists and other experts used by the District Attorney’s office is rigorous, he said. "We try to find someone … who has impeccable credentials; we actually do an investigation, a kind of background check, to ensure they have obtained their degree from that particular university and that they are in fact licensed."

    Murphy said he could not comment on the vetting process used by either the Public Defender’s office or Family Court. No one was available for comment at either the Public Defender’s office or Family Court by press time Saturday.

    Feldman did not respond to a voicemail request for comment.


  • World is against fake degree holders, but Pakistan, Sabir Shah, Lahore, Pakistan The International News, May 23, 2010.


    While the sitting Pakistani heads of government and state continue to patronise bogus degree holders by helping them to get re-elected despite court orders, numerous countries across the globe are taking stringent actions against the elements found guilty of submitting such phoney documents to meet the eligibility criteria for recruitment, to get salary raises, to lure clients and to win seats in the legislative houses.

    The very recent conviction of a Saudi woman on charges of forging her educational qualification — the impeachment of former Iranian Interior Minister Ali Kordan in 2008 on similar charges and the interrogation of Sven-Otto Littorin, the Swedish minister for Employment in 2007, for possessing an MBA degree issued by a diploma mill — serve as candid examples of how intolerant the world has been in recent years in this regard.

    Other eminent international personalities who are known to have been pleaded guilty of acquiring fake educational degrees include British science fiction writer Ron Hubbard, former Senior Director at the US Department of Homeland Security Laura Callahan, former member of Canadian Parliament Jag Bhaduria, Toronto Stock Exchange’s former Vice President Terry Popowich, famous international football coach George O’Leary, Ireland’s Government Science Adviser Barry McSweeney and noted South Korean movie star Jang Mi-hee, who later became a theatre and visual arts professor at a prestigious college in her country on basis of forged documents.

    All these afore-stated personalities had to relinquish their posts after they were found culpable.

    By June 2009, more than 180 people from across the Gulf had been blacklisted for holding fake US academic certificates allegedly bought from non-accredited institutions, including 69 from Saudi Arabia and 68 from the UAE.

    But in Pakistan, even federal ministers accused of possessing fake degrees continue to make hay without being questioned.

    Although the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan is looking after all the activities related to the accreditation of universities and has publicised a list of recognised universities, absence of stern laws not only continues to facilitate unscrupulous characters to buy fake degrees from diploma mills functional both at home and abroad, but a virtually non-existent legislation in this context also encourages fraudulent elements to keep on procuring and falsifying their academic credentials without any fear of being penalised or convicted.

    In India, where Section 22 of the University Grants Commission Act 1956 states that degrees can only be granted or conferred by a university established or incorporated by or under a Central Act, a Provincial Act or a State Act or an institution empowered by an Act of Parliament, the issue of fake educational degrees churned out by diplomas mills continues to plague the whole education system despite checks.

    Sensing the gravity of the situation, the Bombay High Court thus went out ordering the powerful Central Bureau of Investigation in February 2010 to launch an investigation into the matter and curb this menace forthwith.

    The Bombay High Court order had come in the back drop of a revelation that as many as 729 cases of fake degree certificates had been identified in the prestigious University of Pune by March 2, 2010 and another 237 phoney degrees were spotted by the Mumbai University earlier this year.

    Faced with a rather arduous task to probe into the matter of fake documents submitted by candidates for recruitment, the Indian investigators are still meeting university officials to get closer to the culprits involved, which is a huge headache for the revered Indian universities at the moment.

    In Australia, it is a criminal offence to call an institution a university or issue a university degree without authorisation through an act of federal or state parliaments.

    Under the Australian Higher Education Support Act 2003, corporations wishing to use the term "university" require approval from the minister for education in Canberra.

    Australia thus places strict controls on corporations wishing to use the term "university" and the name must not imply a connection with an existing university. The Corporations Regulations 2001 hence lists only 39 academic organisations, which are permitted to use the title "university."

    Specific penalties covered by the provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974, permitting fines in excess of Australian dollars 10 million.

    In Canada, the Border Services Agency had reported concerns about "visa mills" in 2006; fraudulent universities operated for the sole purpose of helping foreign nationals obtain student visas to allow them to enter Canada. This of course had led to an organised government action and cartels were unearthed.

    In Finland, for the purposes of professional qualification, the use of foreign degree qualifications is regulated. It goes without saying that forging degrees is a felony in Finland too.

    In Germany, it is a criminal offence to call an institution a university or issue academic degrees without the authorisation from the respective state’s ministry of education. It is also a crime to falsely claim a degree in Germany, if it does not meet accredited approval.

    In Hong Kong’s case, anyone found using false documents with the intention of inducing somebody to accept the same as genuine, is liable for a 14-year imprisonment.

    The HK law outlines that anyone who makes or possesses machines that create false documents is also liable for 14-year jail time.

    In Malaysia, it is an offence under the Education Act 1996 to establish and operate a higher educational institution by the use of the word "university," except in accordance with any written law.

    The Malaysian law prescribes a fine of 50,000 Ringgits or an imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or even both if a bogus institution is set up.

    Apart from the penalties prescribed by the Act above, under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, anybody found guilty of promoting any activities for the purpose of establishing a university or college, unless it is being done in accordance with the provisions of this Act, may be fined 10,000 Ringgits or imprisoned for a term of five years.

    In New Zealand, the Kiwi authorities announced their intention to take action against unaccredited schools in 2004 and University of Newlands, an unaccredited distance-learning provider based in Wellington, was challenged along with a few others. In Philippines, the falsification of medical certificates, certificates of merit or service is a criminal act.

    The law penalises the maker or the manufacturer of such certificates, specifically a physician or surgeon in connection with the practice of his profession and a public official. It also penalises the one who procures and knowingly uses such false certificate.

    In Portugal, there has been a growing effort since the year 2000 to define non-accredited universities or accredited institutions and to raise awareness about the problem. In 1999 alone, over 15,000 students enrolled in Portuguese higher learning institutions were found possessing bogus degrees.

    Since 2007, Portugal has enforced more inflexible rules for all kind of public and private degree-conferring institutions.

    In Romania, various universities have been listed as diploma mills.

    Although these universities received accreditation from Romania’s National Council of Academic Evaluation in 2002, their accreditations were cancelled for a large number of specialisations after scams had surfaced.

    In South Korea also, it is illegal to falsely educational degrees.

    In March 2006, prosecutors in Seoul were reported to have broken up a crime ring selling bogus music diplomas from Russia, which helped many land university jobs and seats in orchestras.

    Consequently, people who falsely used these degrees were criminally charged.

    Early 2007, a university professor was criminally charged for forging and misusing a degree from the Yale University.

    In Sweden, a minister was found possessing a fake degree from a diploma mill in 2007.

    After he was found guilty on this count, the employment minister tried to convince the Swedish media and people that the MBA degree was granted to him in good order. Probably due to the fact that he did not let anyone peer review his thesis, he was eventually forced to remove the reference from his official curriculum vitae, but somehow managed to survive.

    In Switzerland, it is a criminal offence, under the Unfair Competition Legislation, to use any unfounded academic or occupational qualifications. At least three notable diploma mills were identified in Switzerland, but law eventually took its course against them.

    In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to offer something that may be mistaken for a UK degree unless the awarding body is on a list maintained by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. This is difficult to enforce on the Internet, where a site may be based abroad. However, the UK Trading Standards officers have had notable success in countering a large diploma mill group based abroad that was using British place-names for its "universities".

    In the United States, no federal law strangely exists to prohibit diploma mills.

    Hence, the term "university" is not legally protected on a national level. As a result, the United States is deemed a diploma mill haven from a global viewpoint.

    Some degree mills have taken advantage of a relatively lenient law on this issue by representing themselves as seminaries, as religious institutions can legally offer degrees in religious subjects without government regulation in many jurisdictions.

    In 2005, the US Department of Education had endeavoured to combat the spread of fraudulent degrees and a number of states have passed bills restricting the ability of organisations to award degrees without accreditation.

    Almost 10,000 people had been blacklisted by the US Department of Justice by mid of 2009 for purchasing fake high school and college degrees from a "degree mill" based in Washington.

    Moreover, nearly a dozen teachers, counsellors and principals in the US state of Georgia were investigated for purchasing fake advanced degrees from an unaccredited online university in Liberia that grants master’s and doctorate degrees.


  • Former state senator running fraudulent school from behind bars?, Mike Hoss, New Orleans, LA, WWLTV, May 13, 2010.


    On Hickory Street in Uptown New Orleans, not far from the Riverbend area, you may not notice it, but you'll find a university.

    According to an FBI search warrant, a duplex in the 8200 block of Hickory is the Internet's Columbus University. The FBI confirms that it recently raided it as part of an investigation, calling it a "diploma mill," and its business of selling diplomas, a fraud.

    An FBI spokesperson would not offer any additional comment, calling this an ongoing investigation. But in its search warrant, the FBI lays out a scenario that it says is designed to deceive would-be students from all over the world, and it says the university’s operators are doing so on computers inside the house.

    Columbus University would mail out diplomas, law degrees and doctorates, according to FBI agents, in courses like psychology, chemistry, nursing, biology and dozens more, even though the online university has only one professor and no one qualified to award doctorates.

    Additionally, Columbus University has no state accreditation from Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama, where it claims to operate, meaning the degrees are worthless.

    According to the FBI, Columbus operators are getting help keeping it a secret from students, from a well-known person in a strange place.

    The search warrant says Michael O’Keefe Sr., a high-ranking Louisiana state senator for 24 years, was providing instructions to the school's director, a Dr. Mary Martin. That includes not telling students about the true nature of Columbus University's operations, according to the FBI.

    The FBI also alleges that the 78-year-old former senate president was doing so from inside of the Butner federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, where he's serving 19 years for stealing from a failed insurance company.

    Former U.S. attorney Harry Rosenberg said O’Keefe could be a central figure in the university probe.

    "It suggests that O’Keefe was actually the one being the mastermind behind all this, because he was giving instructions as to how to run this diploma mill," Rosenberg said.

    When O’Keefe went to jail in 1999, it marked a third federal conviction, the end of a decades’ long legal battle, and a fall from grace and power.

    "I am 67 years old. My life is about to end anyhow, but what they've put my family through. It's unbelievable," an emotional O’Keefe said in 1999 after his sentencing.

    "His downfall was one of the most spectacular, in the sense of how big it was, how powerful he was, and how far he fell, in my lifetime," said Clancy DuBos, Channel 4 political analyst and Gambit political columnist.

    DuBos said the power broker used to be called the "snowman."

    "They said he could walk across a field of snow and not leave tracks. Well, that was in the 1970s and '80s. Nowadays, with technology and the federal government having all of its vast powers, it’s very hard to weave webs that can't be seen," DuBos said.

    Also inside of Butner prison is O’Keefe's son, Michael O’Keefe Jr. He's doing 18 months for a house-flipping scam involving the federal government. Based on the search warrant of the Hickory Street duplex, the FBI confiscated five pages worth of materials, several computers and hard drives, bank and payroll records and 25 boxes of documents. One of them was listed as bank and tax records for Michael O’Keefe Jr.

    "This seems to smack of uniqueness, because you've got father and son, both of whom are serving time for federal offenses," Rosenberg said. "And now both are being investigated again for criminal activities that seem to overlap with their prior offenses."

    There is a history that goes back three decades between Michael O’Keefe Sr. and Columbus University's leader, Mary Martin, who was then Mary Blacksher, and served as O’Keefe's accountant. In the early 1980s, both were indicted in a $6 million bank fraud case.

    Eyewitness News went to the house on Hickory Street, looking for Dr. Mary Martin and answers about the FBI's probe and the O’Keefe's alleged involvement. A young woman working on a computer in the front room answered the door and said she would get Mary Martin, who never came.

    "We're not going to comment," the woman answering the door said.

    According to the FBI search warrant, the working operations of Columbus University, in business for a decade, are three women on computers, including Martin. The FBI says she has no advanced degrees. Another woman identified by the FBI is Dr. Shannon O'Brien, the school’s lone professor for 50 degrees offered, whom the FBI says awarded herself a doctorate from Columbus University. The third woman, according to the search warrant, is Helen Anglade.

    You can view the Columbus website in English, French or Arabic. The FBI says that’s because Columbus has an affiliate school in Saudi Arabia, and that a Saudi business partner sends money and a list of names to Hickory Street, then the diplomas are mailed back overseas to foreign students.

    According to the website, degrees -- or as the website lists them, "degres," one of several misspelled words on the site -- range from $3,000 for a bachelor’s degree, to $3,600 hundred for a master’s degree and $4,200 for a doctorate.

    The FBI says the money flows from students to a company called Administrative Inc., which lists 3623 Canal St. as its official address. The building used to house the O’Keefe and O’Keefe law firm as well as Citywide Mortgage, the company at the center of the scandal that sent Michael O’Keefe Jr. to prison.

    WWL went to the building to find Administrative Inc., but found no evidence of any of their businesses, only stacked up desks and file cabinets from the O’Keefe law firm, and nothing that speaks to Administrative Inc. or Columbus University.

    Despite multiple e-mails and calls for a response, Eyewitness News did not hear back from any Columbus representatives.

    Using an alias, a reporter applied to Columbus University for next semester, leaving a phone message, and applying online.

    There was this response: "While I thank you for your interest, the university is not accepting new students at this time." It was signed by Shannon O'Brien, faculty adviser for Columbus University.

    Again, the FBI says O’Brien is not only the adviser, she's the faculty.


  • Doyle Signs Bill Cracking Down On Diploma Mills: Gov. Jim Doyle has signed into law a bill that makes it a crime to manufacture or use false academic credentials., Associated Press, Madison, Wisconsin, NBC15, May 12, 2010.


    Gov. Jim Doyle has signed into law a bill that makes it a crime to manufacture or use false academic credentials.

    The bill Doyle signed Wednesday targets so-called diploma mills, unauthorized schools that issue degrees to students who pay them money and do little work.

    Supporters say the new law will help prosecutors go after diploma mill operators and allow employers to take action against those who try to use fake credentials to score jobs or bonuses.

    The new law also prohibits unauthorized schools from using the terms "college" or "university" in their names.


  • Christie signs "diploma mill law": Freehold Regional staff's degrees spurred restrictions on raises, Larry Higgs, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Asbury Park Press, May 7, 2010.


    A bill signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie Thursday will prohibit school employees from profiting from degrees obtained from mail-order or unaccredited colleges.

    The legislation, known as the diploma mill law, was inspired by the 2008 discovery that Freehold Regional High School District superintendent, H. James Wasser, and several current and former staff members received doctoral degrees from the online, unaccredited Breyer State University.

    "This bill requires that our public school employees attend only accredited institutions if they wish to receive tuition assistance," state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, said in a prepared statement. "Additional education should be rewarded, and this law ensures that those rewards only go to individuals attending accredited institutions, not some Internet-based diploma mill."

    The state concluded in early September 2008 that Wasser, Assistant Superintendent Donna Evangelista and a former assistant superintendent must stop using their doctoral titles or face fines, which they complied with. Wasser relinquished his stipend and later apologized to the district.

    The law requires several conditions be met for educators to receive tuition assistance and receive pay increases for higher degrees or other academic course work. The course or degree has to be related to an employees current or future job responsibilities and the institution must be accredited.

    The law also requires either the superintendent of schools or, in the case of a superintendent, the Board of Education approve course work for which they're are seeking tuition assistance from the district.

    "The cost of education is high enough in New Jersey, and there is far too much waste. I am personally very pleased that the governor has taken the correct action to turn off this particular leaky faucet," Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said in a prepared statement. "Our public school systems must be protected."

    Wasser retires in June, ending 23 years in the district. He currently earns $215,000 a year in addition to benefits such as medical insurance and a vehicle.

    The legislation, signed by Christie Thursday, was sponsored by Beck; Casagrande; Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini, Assemblyman David Rible, both R-Monmouth; state Sen. Richard J. Codey, D-Essex; and Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, D-Union.


  • Ontario takes aim at unapproved universities that target foreign students: Ministry orders school to stop advertising as crackdown begins, Elizabeth Church and Sarah Boesveld, Ontario, Canada, Globe and Mail, April 26, 2010.


    Ontario is vowing to clamp down on private universities that are trying to attract foreign students by offering bogus degrees.

    The changes, designed to close loopholes in existing legislation, come as the province aims to attract up to 50 per cent more foreign students to its campuses in the next five years.

    New powers to be introduced Tuesday will allow the province to shut down schools that offer university degrees that have not been approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. Until now, the only recourse for the government has been through the courts, said a spokeswoman for the ministry. "These are organizations that are calling themselves universities that have not gone through the approvals process," Annette Philips said. "They are mostly targeting international students."

    At the centre of the crackdown are such schools as Hawkesbury University, which bills itself online as "an independent, co-educational business and liberal arts international institution of higher learning."

    The institution, which is headquartered at Prestige Restaurant in Hawkesbury, Ont., has no approvals from the Ontario government to do business in the province as a university or as a private career college. Earlier this month, the province issued a restraining order under the Private Career Colleges Act, barring the unregistered school from advertising its unapproved programs.

    Owner Ashraf Hossain Siddiky had been advertising the school on a bright yellow website, which remains up despite the restraining order handed down April 19. Efforts to reach Mr. Siddiky were unsuccessful.

    The ministry says the website was tweaked during the investigation to say the school was "proposed" and that it is "not yet operating." The failure to shut down the website entirely was one reason the university was ordered to close down.

    Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charleboise knew something was suspicious the day she got an e-mail asking about the new university in town.

    "If there was a university here I would know about it. I would have been at the opening. It’s an election year," said Ms. Charleboise, the top politician in the town of 10,870 people that sits on the Ontario-Quebec border east of Ottawa.

    She alerted the province and the police, which are now investigating.

    According to the ministry’s report on its own investigation, a designate met with Mr. Siddiky at the school on April 13. He told the designate he was only registered in the state of Delaware, though he tried and failed to get the school incorporated as a federal corporation in Ottawa.

    Hawkesbury University had been targeted by the ministry before, but only with a warning. On Aug. 12, 2009, the Postsecondary Accountability branch of the ministry sent a letter to the school telling it to stop advertising. A local news story printed earlier this month spurred the ministry to crack down, the documents read.

    All Mr. Siddiky wanted to do was start up a university after his two grown children moved away from home, said brother-in-law Nazrul Talukder from the convenience store he owns in Hawkesbury.

    "For a long time he was talking about starting one," he said. "He has an idea that he’s going to make a university because there is no university down here."

    He said Mr. Siddiky, a lawyer who got his degree in Britain, came to Hawkesbury about 12 years ago and owns and operates Prestige Restaurant.

    As the province targets international students, Ms. Philips, the ministry spokeswoman, said it is import that courses offered to foreign students are legitimate.

    In the case of Hawkesbury, the province also was able to take action because it was offering vocation training, which is policed by the province under its career college legislation.


  • Two Brownsville [Texas] school administrators have illegal doctorates, Gary Long, Brownsville, Texas, The Brownsville Herald, April 18, 2010.


    Two Brownsville Independent School District administrators who made frequent and public use of their doctoral titles obtained the Ph.D.s from an online institution whose degrees are illegal in Texas.

    Oscar Cantu Sr., administrator of the district’s Adult Continuing Education Department, and his son, Oscar Cantu Jr., special assignment administrator assigned to Brownsville Early College High School, both cite degrees in educational administration from Canbourne University obtained in 2005, and represent themselves as having doctoral degrees, according to documents obtained through a public information request.

    The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board lists Canbourne on its roster of "Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas."

    Both Cantus had been displaying their doctoral titles prominently on BISD websites and in e-mail and hard-copy correspondence, but all references to "Dr." Cantu now have been removed from BISD websites.

    In addition, Cantu Sr. last week said he is in the process of removing all references to the degree from BISD websites, e-mail and hard-copy correspondence.

    Susan Fox, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, said she told Cantu Sr. by telephone to stop using the title after Brett Springston took over as superintendent in January. She said she assumes the elder Cantu told his son of the directive.


    Cantu Sr. defends his Canbourne degree, saying he received a Ph.D. in educational administration by submitting transcripts of post-master’s and other completed coursework.

    His resume lists a bachelor’s and a master’s from the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, as well as a mid-management administrator certificate.

    "They have a program out of New York City," Cantu said of Canbourne. "We submitted transcripts to the university and we were told that they accepted those."

    Canbourne later certified the transcripts and the degree with an "apostille" — a certification — issued by Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Once the apostille was issued, the degree became "a legal document," he said.

    "There was no wrong intention here at all," Cantu said. "I’m not being compensated based on that degree."

    Cantu Jr. at first spoke with the The Brownsville Herald about his Canbourne degree, then said confidential information was being compromised.

    On Friday, Cantu Jr. did not return a voice mail request for comment left on his phone at Brownsville Early College High School.


    Online, Canbourne University seems legitimate. It lists a physical address in London and has a United Kingdom-based website.

    However, on that website, the biography of its chancellor, "Paul C. Crosbie, the Lord Paul of Coleshill," is identical to the biography of Richard Vincent, chancellor of Cranfield University, a legitimate and accredited post-graduate university with two campuses in Great Britain.

    When informed of the nearly identical biographies, Barbara Clack, an administrator in the vice-chancellor’s office at Cranfield University, said she personally knows Richard Vincent and that the person pictured on the Canbourne site with Vincent’s identical biography is not him.

    "I have passed your email to our secretary/registrar, Prof. William Stephens, for further investigation, but it would seem that Canbourne is a fraudulent organization. We will contact you further once we have investigated," Clack wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.

    Canbourne’s website lists no telephone number — only a fax number.

    Prospective students are invited online to apply for degrees ranging from a high school diploma to a Ph.D. by submitting coursework from any collegiate institution, in addition to work and life experience that may qualify them for the degree.

    Canbourne’s website lists 14,407 students, mostly outside the United Kingdom, for the 2002-2003 school year — the most recent year for which it gives figures.


    But what makes a degree from Canbourne University "illegal" in Texas?

    The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, in the preface to its illegal degree list, defines a "fraudulent or substandard degree" as one that is issued by a non-accredited institution or one that was certified by an accreditor not recognized by the board.

    Section 32.52 of the Texas Penal Code prohibits the use of such degrees to obtain employment or an employment promotion, "regardless of whether the actor receives compensation for the position."

    Diploma mills like Canbourne typically are unaccredited schools or colleges that grant relatively worthless diplomas for a fee.

    The purchaser can then claim to hold an academic degree and the organization is motivated by making a profit. These degrees are often awarded based on vaguely construed life experience. Some such organizations claim accreditation by non-recognized / unapproved accrediting bodies set up for the purposes of providing a veneer of authenticity


    Administrators receive no additional compensation for having a doctorate under Brownsville school district policy. Teachers, however, earn more for having a Ph.D.

    Despite that, the district’s employee handbook does provide for truthful disclosure of credentials.

    "It shall be the responsibility of the applicant to furnish accurate information and any falsification of either information or credentials shall be cause for dismissal or refusal to employ," according to the handbook.

    Susan Fox, school district human resources administrator, said the Cantus submitted their degrees in 2005, when Johnny Pineda was administrator of the district’s Human Resources Department. Pineda is now superintendent of the Raymondville Independent School District.

    Fox said former superintendent Hector Gonzales asked her to check on the degrees in December 2008. She spoke to the Cantus about the questionable nature of the degrees back then, she said, but they continued to use the credentials.

    When Springston took over as superintendent, Fox asked him if he wanted her to continue to work on the situation. He told her to proceed.

    Charles Lackey, dean of graduate studies at the University of Texas at Brownsville, said diploma mills undermine higher education. He said the university does not accept the fake degrees and checks to ensure prospective students and staff do not try to use them.

    "There’s nothing we can do to prevent people from getting them, but they undermine the integrity of education in the U.S.," Lackey said. "Certainly, UTB discourages people from using this type of thing as an ego booster or to deceive themselves."


  • Van Bijsterveldt: naam universiteit beschermen (Netherlands Minister of Education Van Bijsterveldt: Protect the Term "University"), April 6, 2010. (In Dutch.)


    De naam universiteit en de Nederlandse graden krijgen een betere bescherming van de overheid. Staatssecretaris Van Bijsterveldt schrijft in een brief aan de Tweede Kamer dat ze de voorbereiding hiertoe inmiddels ter hand heeft genomen.

    Nu is het nog zo dat elke instelling die dat wil de naam universiteit, hogeschool of university (of applied science) kan voeren. Ook de bachelor- en mastergraden en titels zijn vrij, zodat iedereen zich bijvoorbeeld Bachelor of Arts (BA) of Master of Science (MSc) kan noemen. Dit leidt tot onduidelijkheid bij studenten en werkgevers, oneerlijke concurrentie en regelrechte diplomafraude.

    Om hier een einde aan te maken wil Van Bijsterveldt de naam universiteit reserveren voor instellingen die erkend zijn op grond van de Nederlandse wet. Titels en graden mogen dan alleen worden afgegeven door opleidingen die zijn geaccrediteerd door de Nederlands Vlaamse Accreditatie Organisatie (NVAO). Personen mogen de Nederlandse titels alleen gebruiken als ze zijn verleend door geaccrediteerde opleidingen.

    Onderzoek heeft aangetoond dat een verbod op het dragen van de naam universiteit door een instelling die deze naam niet verdient, goed mogelijk is. In de onderzochte gebieden (Vlaanderen, Baden-Württemberg, Noordrijn-Westfalen, Oostenrijk, Verenigd Koninkrijk en Australië) gebeurt dit al. Een uitzondering wordt gemaakt voor buitenlandse instellingen in Nederland die in het eigen land erkend zijn, en de titels en graden van een dergelijke instelling.

    Google translation:

    The name and the Dutch university degrees have better protection from the government. Secretary Of Bijsterveldt wrote in a letter to the House that they do now to prepare has undertaken.

    It is still true that any institution that is the name of university, college or university (or Applied Science) can perform. The bachelor's and master's degrees and titles are free, so everyone such as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Master of Science (MSc) can call. This leads to confusion among students and employees, unfair competition and outright fraud diploma.

    To find an end to them will of Bijsterveldt the name of university reserved for institutions approved under Dutch law. Titles and degrees may only be issued by programs that are accredited by the Dutch Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO). Persons Dutch titles may only be used if they are provided by accredited training.

    Research has shown that a ban on wearing the name of university by an institution of that name does not deserve the best. In the investigated regions (Flanders, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Austria, UK and Australia) this is done al. An exception is made for foreign bodies in the Netherlands in the country recognized, and the titles and degrees of such an institution.


  • State official says West Linn mayor Patti Galle violated law with Voters' Pamphlet information, Dana Tims, West Linn, Oregon, The Oregonian, March 16, 2010.


    A month after West Linn city councilors censured her for unprofessional conduct, a state official contends West Linn Mayor Patti Galle may have broken Oregon law by presenting a nonaccredited "degree mill" certificate as a legitimate college degree.

    The Oregon attorney general's office is investigating, but Alan Contreras, administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, which is charged with monitoring candidates' postsecondary accreditations, said there is no wiggle room in assessing Galle's purported English degree from Redding University.

    "It is a total fake," Contreras said "It's a civil violation for which she can be fined."

    Galle did not return phone calls seeking comment. Her attorney, Jeffrey Seymour, said Tuesday he was not familiar with the law cited by Contreras and that he and Galle believe she will be found innocent of any wrongdoing.

    The controversy, the latest for West Linn's first-term mayor, involves Voters' Pamphlet material Galle submitted before the 2008 general election. Among other accomplishments, Galle listed "degreed in English with emphasis on teaching."

    Under Oregon law, it's a class B misdemeanor for someone to assert in an official document such as the Voters' Pamphlet that they have received a postsecondary degree unless it comes from an accredited institution.

    $395 degree

    Redding University appears to exist primarily as a Web site, advertising diplomas in 48 fields awarded for four years of work/life experience related to a major.

    "Please do not get the impression that by simply applying, you will qualify for a Ph.D. in a field that you have no knowledge of or experience in," according to the Web site. "On the other hand, if you have a substantial amount of life or work experience, you might qualify for every degree available."

    A bachelor's degree costs $395, with master's and doctorates going for $425 and $475, respectively. Frames and shipping are extra.

    This isn't the first time an Oregon elected official has run into trouble over Voters' Pamphlet statements, which by law must be truthful and accurate.

    Former Oregon Rep. Wes Cooley was convicted in 1997 of claiming that he had served in Korea. In fact, he never left the United States. He was sentenced to two years' probation, ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. And in 1984, voters swiftly recalled then-Rep. Pat Gillis after he stated, incorrectly, that he had earned a master's degree.

    In Galle's case, her attorney maintains that the mayor's Voters' Pamphlet statements were truthful.

    Redding University may not be accredited in the same way that Oregon State University and the University of Oregon are," Seymour said, "but she has a college degree in English. That's what she said in the Voters' Pamphlet and it's true."

    He added that Galle is not required to have a degree of any kind to hold the office of West Linn mayor.

    "She could have an eighth-grade education and it wouldn't make any difference at all," Seymour said. "We believe that, in the end, this will work out in her favor."

    The secretary of state's office first began reviewing the matter after receiving an inquiry. The office's elections division, after meeting with Galle and Seymour, referred the matter to the state Department of Justice.

    Tony Green, an attorney general's spokesman, declined to elaborate on the investigation or say when it might be concluded.

    String of accusations

    The incident is just the latest roiling of West Linn City Hall, where the embattled mayor has rarely been seen in months.

    The Feb. 8 censure resolution, passed by a 3-0 vote, claimed, among other things, that Galle has violated the confidentiality of executive sessions, exhibited unprofessional behavior, created a hostile work environment and filed false allegations about city officials to the Oregon attorney general's office.

    Galle, in turn, ended up asking the state attorney general to look into allegations of what she called corruption in West Linn. After reviewing Galle's allegations, the attorney general's office rejected her claims

    Follow-up stories:

    State officials seize West Linn Mayor Patti Galle's computer during search, Yuxing Zheng,, West Linn, Oregon, The Oregonian, April 2, 2010.


    Oregon Department of Justice officials seized West Linn Mayor Patti Galle's computer from City Hall on Thursday afternoon as part of their ongoing investigation into whether Galle knowingly provided false information on her Voters' Pamphlet statement.

    State justice officials arrived at City Hall around 4 p.m. Thursday with a search warrant, said Kirsten Wyatt, city spokeswoman. Galle also notified City Hall that the investigators had been at her house.

    "City staff is unaware of the details of the investigation," Wyatt said.

    The justice officials also requested the city to back up e-mails, she said.

    A state official with the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization said last month that Galle may have broken Oregon law by presenting a nonaccredited "degree mill" certificate as a legitimate college degree.

    Alan Contreras, administrator of the agency, which is charged with monitoring candidates' postsecondary accreditations, said there is no wiggle room in assessing Galle's purported English degree from Redding University.

    Galle had listed a '"College Degree in English" under the educational background portion of her Voters' Pamphlet statement. In an August 2008 form she filed to run for mayor, Galle listed she was "degreed in English with emphasis on teaching." She did not name a school in either situation.

    Under Oregon law, it's a class B misdemeanor for someone to assert in an official document such as the Voters' Pamphlet that they have received a postsecondary degree unless it comes from an accredited institution.

    The investigation is just the latest in a series of disruptions involving West Linn officials. On Feb. 8, city councilors accused the mayor of unprofessional behavior and other problems, and asked her to make changes or resign. Galle has asked everyone from the state attorney general to the FBI to investigate what she called corruption in West Linn government.

    West Linn Mayor Patti Galle resigns amid state investigation, Yuxing Zheng,, West Linn, Oregon, The Oregonian, April 17, 2010.


    West Linn Mayor Patti Galle resigned late Friday afternoon, two days after The Oregonian detailed court records indicating Galle bought a college degree online and backdated the diploma to support campaign claims that she was "degreed in English."

    Patti Galle"I believe that it is in the best interest of the city of West Linn and all concerned parties that I tender my resignation as mayor, effective immediately," she wrote in an e-mail to City Manager Chris Jordan at 5:05 p.m. Friday. "I do this with much regret, but I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the citizens of the city."

    Galle also said she had sent to City Hall a certified parcel containing a signed copy of her resignation, office keys and a debit card.

    The West Linn City Council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss how to proceed.

    "We will research and prepare information for the City Council to review on Monday, and at that time the Council will decide how to address the vacancy," Jordan said.

    The Oregon Department of Justice is investigating whether Galle misrepresented her education credentials when she claimed she was "degreed in English with an emphasis on teaching" while filing to run for mayor in 2008.

    Knowingly making false statements on an official election document is a Class C felony punishable by as much as five years in prison and a $125,000 fine.

    "The investigation is still ongoing" despite Galle's resignation, Tony Green, a Justice Department spokesman, said late Friday.

    Galle and her attorney, Jeffrey Seymour, did not return messages seeking comment Friday evening.

    The criminal investigation is the latest in a series of disruptions involving West Linn officials.

    On Feb. 8, city councilors censured Galle, accusing her of unprofessional behavior and asking her to make changes or resign.

    Galle previously had asked the state attorney general and the FBI to investigate what she called corruption in the West Linn government. The attorney general's office found no basis for Galle's allegations.

    On April 1, state investigators searched Galle's home and city office and seized two laptop computers, a cell phone, the diploma and financial records. Galle quietly cleaned out her city office April 10.

    The Oregon Department of Justice disclosed preliminary findings of its investigation to a Clackamas County judge last month when it requested the search warrants.

    According to the affidavit, Galle's diploma from Redding University was dated 1973, but investigators said the "diploma mill" operation was not established until 2003. Court records indicate investigators also seized a computer receipt showing Galle bought the diploma Feb. 12 of this year.

    Representatives of Redding University told investigators that Galle had applied for a degree Feb. 5, according to court documents. The university awards degrees in 48 fields based on life and work experience.

    A week later, Galle paid Redding University for an associate of arts degree, which Redding's website lists as costing $375.

    The Oregon secretary of state originally launched the investigation of Galle's education credentials after receiving a citizen complaint in January 2009. It forwarded the case to the attorney general's office in March


  • Diploma mills keep churning out bogus degrees, Gene Trainor, Fort Worth, Texas Star-Telegram, March 27, 2010.


    For only $963, anyone can get a high school diploma, an associate degree and a bachelor's degree based solely on "life experience."

    The problem? All three degrees are fake.

    With 53 diploma mills -- organizations that issue bogus degrees -- Texas ranks fifth in the United States, according to the British company Verifile, which tracks diploma mills. California tops the country with 134 companies, followed by Hawaii, Washington and Florida.

    Some mills issue medical and other degrees that help individuals land jobs that could put people's lives at risk, according to a report co-written by Eyal Ben Cohen, Verifile's managing director.

    Others worry that fake diplomas could provide terrorists an entryway into the United States.

    Diploma mills tend to locate in areas with the least regulation, Cohen said. And they have become an international, $100 million-plus annual business, with the United States at the epicenter, he said

    People only need to tap into online job networking sites to see the evidence.

    "The threat is huge," Cohen said. "If you go to LinkedIn and do a search, you will find thousands of people who happily are boasting that they have an education from diploma mills."

    Price list

    Verifile defines diploma mills as mostly online companies that offer degrees without the legal authority to grant them. Prices range from $100 to thousands of dollars. Some will grant a "degree" based on a résumé detailing life experience and let applicants choose their majors and year of graduation. Others might ask applicants to write an essay, Cohen said.

    Belford University, for example, will give students a bachelor's degree based on life experience for $449 and a doctoral degree for $549. Majors include civil and aerospace engineering, psychiatry and medicine, according to Belford's Web site. Package deals are also available, such as a high school diploma, an associate's degree and a bachelor's degree for $963.

    Belford claims on its Web site to be accredited by the International Accreditation for Online Universities, which Cohen said is not a recognized accreditation agency. Belford states it will provide complete verification of a student's credentials by phone should an employer need them.

    As is typical of such schools, Cohen said, the school provides no address, just a phone number. The Better Business Bureau places the school in Humble, north of Houston.

    Ashwood University's Web site says that there's "no need to take admission exams, no need to study." You can "receive a college degree for what you already know!" Ashwood claims to be accredited by the World Online Education Accrediting Commission and the Board of Online Universities Accreditation, neither of which is recognized by the U.S. Education Department. The school has a mailbox listing in Humble, according to the Better Business Bureau

    A bachelor's degree can be obtained for four years of life experience relevant to the major, according to Ashwood's Web site. A doctorate requires eight. Lifetime experience includes job experience in any field, military training, educational achievements and "independent reading, viewing, listening or writing," the Web site says.

    A bachelor's degree costs $479, a doctorate, $599. The bachelor's degree recipient receives 10 documents: one "accredited degree," two transcripts, four verification letters, an award of excellence, a certificate of distinction and a certificate of membership, the Web site states. A 3.0 grade-point average (a B average) is free. A 3.9 or 4.0 GPA costs an extra $60.

    "If you know anything about education, you would know that education is not something [for which] you only need your credit card number," Cohen said.

    Dire consequences

    The danger is that not all employers take the necessary steps to verify a degree's authenticity, Cohen said. Sometimes they just look at the document that states a person has a bachelor's degree, or they call the "university" and get confirmation that indeed a person "graduated" from it. Sometimes diploma mills give their university a name similar to those of legitimate schools.

    The reputable Regis University in Denver, for example, sued in 2004, alleging that the diploma mill St. Regis University and its principals infringed on its trademark. The lawsuit was settled when the defendants agreed to cease using "St. Regis" or any name that could cause confusion with Regis University, said Donnie Veasey, Regis' director of media relations.

    The deception about a person's education can have dire consequences. In North Carolina, a Laurence Perry created a doctor's office, wore a white coat and collected bogus credentials to convey that he was a legitimate medical professional, said Sam Constance, a former investigator for the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department.

    In 2002, Perry was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license in North Carolina and sentenced to 12-15 months in prison, according to court documents. He was accused of telling the mother of an 8-year-old diabetic girl, Helena Rose Kolitwenzew, to stop her insulin treatments. The girl died Oct. 21, 1999, from diabetic ketoacidosis. The complication occurs when the body cannot use sugar as a fuel source because it has no insulin or not enough insulin.

    In Texas, David Karam of El Paso claimed that he had a medical degree from the St. Luke School of Medicine, a diploma mill with ties to California and the West African countries of Ghana and Liberia, said George Gollin, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who researches diploma mills.

    In a 2004 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Bio-Life Labs claimed that it had acquired exclusive rights from Karam to "Carcinoderm, a topical ointment that destroys skin cancer cells" without harming the surrounding healthy tissue. The statement says that Bio-Life paid Karam $250,000 plus company stock valued at $29,610. Another filing listed Karam as director of doctoral programs and an adjunct professor in neurosciences at St. Luke and said he received "his Doctor of Medicine degree from St. Luke School of Medicine."

    Karam could not be reached for comment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved no drug known as Carcinoderm, FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson said. A 2007 SEC report says Bio-Life "has not engaged in any material business operations for approximately the last two years." The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board lists St. Luke's as having no accreditation from a recognized authority and notes that it was disowned by the Liberian government.

    'Lack of oversight'

    So why are these diploma companies allowed to operate? Texas law bans the use of fraudulent or substandard degrees "in a written or oral advertisement or other promotion of a business; or with the intent to: obtain employment; obtain a license or certificate to practice a trade, profession, or occupation." Violations are considered a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.

    Diploma mills are also subject to fines. Under state law, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board must identify the company and then refer the case to the Texas attorney general's office. The attorney general then can file a lawsuit, seeking penalties of up to $1,000 a day for each violation.

    The Coordinating Board knows of no diploma mills currently operating in Texas. In January, the board sent a letter to Ashwood but did not receive a response, agency spokesman Andy Kesling said. The letter to Belford was returned, address unknown, but the agency has sent another letter after identifying a potential Houston address, Kesling said. The attorney general's office reported that no case had been referred in recent memory.

    Diploma mills change locations all the time, Cohen said.

    "The authorities should go after the money, not the addresses," he said. "In the same way as they track down the money trail helping terrorists, they should do with these institutions. They have bank accounts; they accept credit cards."

    Cohen expressed hope for a bill introduced Jan. 27 by U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop, D-N.Y., that would give the Federal Trade Commission authority to shut down diploma mills nationwide. The FTC would help make the rules. Aside from having unqualified people in crucial jobs, Bishop notes, diploma mills bring the risk that foreigners, possibly including terrorists, can get student visas or visas for sought-after job skills to get into the United States.

    "It's all a sham," Bishop said. "If it's all a sham, that really leaves us very exposed."

    Bishop notes a 2004 Government Accountability Office investigation of a sample of federal employees that found 463 held degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited universities. The investigation also found that federal agencies paid more than $150,000 in tuition for fake degrees on behalf of federal employees. Employees simply submitted requests for reimbursement, said Andrew O'Connell, the GAO official who oversaw the investigation.

    "It's just a lack of oversight," O'Connell said. "I don't think a whole lot has changed."


  • A diploma mill's trail leads to Wisconsin inmate, Ryan Foley, Madison, WI, Associated Press, February 22, 2010.


    A lifelong con man imprisoned in Wisconsin worked with associates outside the walls to operate a suspected diploma mill that was recruiting students for at least two years until authorities uncovered the scheme, The Associated Press has learned.

    Kenneth Shong, 44, helped to run "Carlingford University" while he was behind bars, according to interviews and documents obtained by AP through the state open records law. Prison authorities uncovered the scheme in late 2008, but Carlingford's Web site was taken down only this month after AP interviewed its designer.

    The school was apparently just a phony moneymaking venture, according to state regulators. Its Web site claimed Carlingford had an office in Mobile, Ala., and a "regional training center" in Green Bay, but both were merely post office boxes.

    Web designer Brian Truckey acknowledged in an interview that he ran Carlingford's Web site and that it contained inaccurate information he was told to post. He said Shong, an inmate at Racine Correctional Institute whose criminal career has spanned the globe, was in charge.

    "We don't move forward until I get instructions from him," said Truckey, president of a small business in Green Bay called Serpent Technologies.

    But Truckey insisted Carlingford was largely legitimate and added he was earning a graduate degree in exchange for running the site, which he said was his "thesis." Hours after the interview, the site was suspended.

    Higher education regulators in Wisconsin and Alabama had already sent letters to Carlingford representatives asking them to cease and desist operations.

    The Wisconsin Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into Carlingford, which boasted of "delivering knowledge at the speed of thought" and offering degrees that were accepted worldwide.

    "It has become apparent that Carlingford University is likely part of a criminal scheme being conducted by one or more inmates or ex-inmates," David Dies, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, wrote DOJ last year in asking for the probe.

    The investigation comes as Wisconsin lawmakers consider a bill that would make it easier for prosecutors to press charges against so-called diploma mills and their customers. The bill would make it a crime to issue and use false academic credentials.

    Shong, who has several aliases, including Kenneth Onapolis, has not been charged in connection with Carlingford. But he was put in isolation for 45 days as punishment after prison officials uncovered his role in late 2008 by reading his mail.

    A prison investigation found Shong's main partner was David Kaster, a convicted sex offender he met while serving time. Kaster, a former high school swimming coach convicted of sexually assaulting female students, was released in 2007.

    He wrote to Shong on Carlingford letterhead to discuss plans to set tuition rates, design degrees and class rings for "CU" and spend money to advertise online.

    At least three inmates applied to Carlingford while the prison was investigating and Kaster cashed two $35 checks covering their initial fees. The prison stopped payment on the third. Kaster also contacted groups to market the school to other inmates, the investigation found. It's unclear how many, if any, diplomas were issued or how much the scheme netted.

    Investigators obtained a letter sent from Carlingford's "dean of students," another Shong associate, that congratulated inmate Kenneth Fleming for being admitted and noted he had paid $1,740 to enroll.

    "Should I just send Fleming a course completion certificate with his 'grades' for the last course he took?" Kaster asked Shong in one letter. "He is looking for something like that."

    Fleming wrote to an investigator last year that he considered himself a victim of the scheme and wanted restitution.

    Kaster could not be reached for comment, but authorities ordered him to not have any contact with Shong or anyone associated with Carlingford.

    In a telephone interview from prison, Shong acknowledged that he had advised others on how to run Carlingford but downplayed his role in the scheme.

    "I would not say I'm the driving force behind anything," he said.

    He claimed Carlingford was part of a legitimate London-based outfit that offered academic degrees around the world, a claim the prison investigation found untrue. Its London address was an empty storefront, it found.

    Shong has been convicted of bank fraud, theft and other financial crimes and has a history of "outwitting, outplaying and outlasting authorities," as one judge wrote in 2005. After years on the run, he was captured by U.S. marshals in Vanuatu, a small island near Australia, in 2002 and returned to the United States to face federal fraud and tax evasion charges.

    After his prison term ended, Wisconsin authorities brought him back to finish serving a 12-year sentence on a 1989 sentence on forgery charges. He had escaped while on parole in 1993.

    Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh declined comment on the investigation. But Dies said investigators were poring through "a fairly large volume of material" they obtained, including bank records.

    At a court hearing in 1989, Dane County prosecutor Ann Sayles said Shong used fake checks, obtained bank credit to buy an expensive car, and defrauded companies to buy plane tickets under a fake name. She called him "a professional con man" and said his shady business activities were continuing in jail. "I'm not so certain," she said, "the public is safe even with him in prison."


  • Fraudulent Credentials an Issue for Medical Equipment Inspectors, Michelle Cormier, Washington DC, AACRAO Transcript, Janjuary 28, 2010.


    The New York Times published a story this week exposing the loose regulations governing the certification of medical equipment inspectors.

    Norman Fenton, a well-respected medical physicist, spent three decades inspecting radiological equipment, developing safety procedures, drawing up shielding plans for X-ray rooms and teaching other professionals. He also assisted in the prosecution of Perry Beale a man who used fake credentials to pose as a medical physicist at more than 50 medical facilities, reports the Times.

    In 2007, John L. Brownlee, the United States attorney who had used Fenton to help incriminate the imposter, received information that Fenton had actually bought his undergraduate degree from an online diploma mill. Despite claims that he received more than 700 hours of classroom instruction over 25 years, Fenton never formally got his undergraduate degree.

    Both Fenton and Beale are currently serving prison sentences for providing false credentials to comply with a federal law that requires certification for inspecting medical equipment.

    In response to the fraud cases, the state of Virginia now requires a bachelor's degree for placement on the state's approved list of medical physicists; a high school diploma was required before.


  • Woman's anguish uncovered 'psychologist', Michele Mandel, Toronto, Sun, January 29, 2010.


    The warning bells were going off everywhere, but no one seemed to care.

    Ontario's College of Psychologists had a complaint as far back as July 2008 about a Whitby man now charged with fraud for impersonating a psychologist in court during child custody battles.

    But the College only recently decided to "caution" Greg Carter after accusations he was making diagnoses — even though his registration prevented him from doing so — and calling himself a doctor.

    Carter is registered with the College as a psychological associate with a master's degree, and not a psychologist with a recognized doctorate in psychology. Instead, he has a PhD from Pacific Western University, the now-defunct school that awarded degrees based on "life experience" and was branded a "diploma mill" in a report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs.

    "Mr. Carter has made frequent use of the title 'Doctor' in his reports and correspondence," agreed the College in their decision of May 2009, almost a year after the initial complaint. "He should ensure that his letterhead, business cards and signature blocks in his report and correspondence do not make any reference to the title "Doctor."

    The woman who brought the first of at least three known complaints to the College lost sole custody of her daughter in April 2008 after Carter — accepted by family court in Durham as a qualified psychologist — submitted a report saying her child suffered from a "mild to moderate oppositional defiant disorder" and that her mom is a "remarkably narcissistic individual."

    His diagnosis of narcissism is one popular with Carter — he made it in at least two other disputes where the court removed sole custody.

    Durham Regional Police charged Carter, 63, with fraud, obstructing justice and perjury. He also faces a charge of professional misconduct by the College.

    "Carter will respond to these allegations in court and it will be clear that he never did anything to mislead anyone," says lawyer Gregory Lafontaine.

    "His work was good work and was far from the only evidence that led to the results in the court cases at issue.

    "An obvious concern is that the publicity surrounding these charges will encourage false allegations by losing parties who try to profit from this tragedy by using it to attack the results in their own cases," he says.

    Sandra insists she should never have lost custody of her daughter based on the assessment of a man everyone in court believed was a qualified psychologist.

    After she'd accused her ex-husband of sexually molesting the child, she thought Carter was being paid $10,000 by CAS to determine the safety of their daughter, not to determine who should get custody.

    At the time, the little girl lived full-time with Sandra while her father had supervised access. But after "Dr. Carter's" damning assessment was entered into court, Sandra's daughter was suddenly placed solely in her dad's care, with the mom allowed to visit every second weekend.

    "They ripped her out of my home," says the broken woman. "If I was on drugs or alcohol or mistreating her, I would understand. I'm a good mom. This should never have happened. How could they just take your kid just because this guy said so?"

    Carter told the court Sandra should lose custody because she encouraged her daughter's alienation from her father and the child was too attached to her.

    So naturally, the good "doctor" recommended wrenching the little girl away.

    It was only after exhausting all her savings — again, a refrain repeated by the others affected by his assessments — that Sandra won more access, so she's now with her 47% of the time.

    "I'm broke or I'd still be fighting for more," she says.

    In the meantime, she launched her complaint with the College after being shocked to discover the man who cost her custody of her daughter was not the psychologist everyone in court assumed he was.

    "Nobody checked," Sandra says angrily. "It's meant three years that have messed up my life. How do you get compensated for that? What are they going to do for my daughter?"


  • Wisconsin plan aims to stop use of phony degrees, Ryan J. Foley, Business Week, February 2, 2010.


    Wisconsin International University could be forced to change its name. So might Heed University. And a job applicant who recently tried to claim a phony degree from Madison Business College could be criminally prosecuted.

    State lawmakers are considering a bill that would crack down on the manufacture and use of phony academic credentials in Wisconsin by criminalizing both practices. It would also prohibit unauthorized schools from using the words "college," "university," "state" or "Wisconsin" in their names.

    The goal is to stop the spread of diploma mills, which essentially sell phony academic degrees to students who perform little work. Higher education officials say such outfits pop up occasionally in Wisconsin, and the bill would give regulators and law enforcement officials more power to stop them.

    What's more, the bill would allow employers to more easily fire and press criminal charges against workers who use fake credentials to get jobs, bonuses and professional licenses. Supporters say the bill would ensure Wisconsin does not become a haven for diploma mills as they are driven out of other states.

    "I think it's a problem everywhere in the country and yes, in Wisconsin, too," said former University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor John Wiley. He said diploma mills undermine confidence in higher education and help unqualified people get jobs as engineers, accountants, and even doctors.

    The Assembly's colleges and universities committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday.

    If approved by the Legislature, Wisconsin would become the 12th state to make it a crime to use a bogus academic degree, said George Gollin, a University of Illinois professor who is an expert on the issue.

    The problem is also getting attention nationally.

    A bill introduced in Congress last month with bipartisan support would prohibit the federal government from hiring anyone with bogus credentials and give the Federal Trade Commission more power to regulate diploma mills.

    Wisconsin regulators say they've had problems taking action in the few such cases they've investigated.

    David Dies, executive secretary of the Educational Approval Board, said the law could give his agency the power to force Florida-based Wisconsin International University to change its name. Regulators have succeeded in convincing the university to stop using pictures of Milwaukee on its Web site and add a disclaimer that it is not connected to UW.

    "The name still gives this image to foreign students and others that somehow Wisconsin has endorsed this school," he said.

    Dies said he believed the school was "on the borderline" of being a diploma mill.

    John Buuck, the university's president, disputed that notion, saying he started the school to promote higher education and form partnerships in countries including Estonia and Ghana. He said he kept the Wisconsin name because that's where he originally founded the school in the 1990s.

    Buuck said the school never granted degrees to U.S. students and was turning over its programs to overseas partners. He said he had no problem with the Wisconsin bill because "we're phasing out anyway."

    "And if it's an issue that someone thinks there's some confusion there, we could easily change the name," he said.

    Dies said his agency has also investigated suspected diploma mill Heed University, which lists Milwaukee as its location on one of its Web sites. He said it is unclear whether the school, which offered degrees in law, business and other fields, remains active. No one returned a phone message left at a number on its site.

    The bill would help employers take action when they are burned by employees with fake credentials. One business recently called the approval board to check an applicant's claim that he had a degree from Madison Business College, a once-legitimate school that closed in the 1990s.

    Dies said his agency immediately knew it was a fake credential because the transcript and college seal looked nothing like the originals.

    "Somebody paid an online service to generate a fake transcript," Dies said. Under the bill, that would be a misdemeanor that carries up to 9 months in jail.


  • Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY01), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN04), and Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE) have introduced House Resolution 4535, the "Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act of 2009." Note that the bill has bipartisan sponsorship.

    REP. BISHOP ANNOUNCES BILL TO STOP DIPLOMA MILLS, from Congressman Bishop's web site, January 28, 2010.


    Washington, DC—Today Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) unveiled new legislation to shut down fraudulent "Diploma Mills" across the country. These fraudulent businesses market worthless degrees, tricking students out of hard-earned dollars and deceiving employers by falsely claiming an attained level of skill or achievement. Moreover, diploma mills create critical issues of personal and national security via their issuance of fraudulent scientific degrees that can be utilized to obtain entrance visas into the United States.

    "Diploma mills have proliferated rapidly in recent years, creating dangerous vulnerabilities to our national security, while simultaneously undermining legitimate American institutions of higher education," said Bishop, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, who has worked on this issue for several years. "The Federal government can do more to protect the American public by preventing the expansion of these fraudulent enterprises. This is why I introduced the Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act."

    During the press conference, Dr. George Gollin, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told how he aided a federal investigation into a multimillion dollar diploma mill called "St. Regis University," which ran a network of bogus universities and fake government agencies.

    "We learned that St. Regis had sold ten thousand degrees to customers in over a hundred countries," said Dr. Gollin. "We do not want untrained engineers designing our airliners or untrained physicians running pharmaceutical research programs. And we certainly do not want our children taught by teachers with purchased credentials."

    "CHEA applauds this legislation as a measure to protect the integrity of credentials offered by legitimate institutions, which will benefit students and employers," said Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. "We need this legislation. This is legislation that everyone should support."

    An alarming Government Accountably Office investigation of the credentials of a sampling of Federal employees revealed that, of the Federal employees selected for examination, 463 Federal employees held degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited universities. The investigation also found that federal agencies have paid more than $150,000 in tuition payments to diploma mills and other unaccredited universities on behalf of Federal employees. More recently, an investigation undertaken in 2008 by federal authorities, including the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, discovered that at least 20 military personnel and an additional 10 federal employees either pursued or attained degrees from unaccredited diploma mills.

    Diploma mills are clearly not a new problem; however expansion can be traced to inconsistent laws across states as well as to technological advances, such as the Internet and electronic mail. Recent criminal investigations of suspected diploma mills have exposed a tangled web of fraudulent behavior spanning across state lines and the United States border.

    To prevent the expansion of these fraudulent enterprises, yesterday Rep. Bishop introduced the Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act (HR 4535) to


    • Legally define what it means to be a degree-granting institution
    • Legally define what it means to be a legitimate accrediting agency
    • Grant additional authority to the FTC to crack down on diploma mills.

    The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Michael Castle (R-DE) and Betty McCollum (D-MN).


    This WHNT/CBS investigative series provides further information on the dangers of Diploma Mills:,0,5264841.story.

    This Wired Magazine story details Dr. Gollin's involvement in the St. Regis investigation:

    The press conference was held during the 2010 CHEA Annual Conference and International Seminar in Washington, D.C. More than 300 participants from 32 countries met to hear leaders from government, U.S. and international higher education institutions, accrediting organizations and higher education associations address a range of issues including accreditation, quality assurance and accountability; combating degree mills and accreditation mills; and quality assurance practices in countries around the world.


    New Bill in Congress Would Make Diploma Mills a Federal Concern, Tom Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28, 2010.


    People buy fake college degrees and use them to get jobs and, in some cases, visas. It's a problem that some states have tackled but that, for the most part, the federal government hasn't addressed.

    Rep. Timothy H. Bishop has been trying for years to change that. Today the New York Democrat announced that he had introduced the Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act (HR 4535), a bill that would define diploma mills and accreditation mills. It also would instruct the Federal Trade Commission to take action against entities that fit those definitions and to report its findings to the Department of Education. The bill has two co-sponsors: Betty McCollum, a Democrat of Minnesota, and Michael N. Castle, a Republican of Delaware.

    Representative Bishop has been pushing for such a bill since 2005. That's when a Government Accountability Office investigation found that more than 400 federal employees held degrees from unaccredited colleges. At one point, legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act contained language similar to that found in Mr. Bishop's bill, but that provision was later stripped out. Representative Bishop said he had no idea why anyone would object to cracking down on diploma mills.

    So why is Mr. Bishop interested in the issue? In part, he said, it stems from his background in academe — he is a former provost of Southampton College of Long Island University. "I know how hard people work to earn their credentials," he said.

    The news conference at which the bill was announced was held during the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's annual conference...

    Taking Aim at Diploma Mills, Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, January 29, 2010.


    It's not easy to find fans of diploma mills -- advocates for institutions that award bogus degrees for no work don't tend to make their feelings known in polite company. But in the United States and abroad, the phony diploma industry has remained remarkably resilient, fed by often weak regulatory oversight, a ready market of workers looking for easily attained credentials needed for career advancement -- and, not unimportantly, unclear definitions of what a degree mill is that can make it difficult to crack down on them even when they are prosecuted.

    While they portrayed it as far from a panacea, a U.S. Congressman and several supporters unveiled legislation Thursday that aims to make at least some progress on all of those fronts. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) and Michael Castle (R-Del.), would (1) cement in federal law definitions of "diploma mills" and "accreditation mills" (the unauthorized agencies from which the phony institutions claim to derive their authority to operate), (2) bar federal agencies from using degrees from diploma mills to provide jobs or promotions that depend on candidates' educational credentials, and (3) give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to define and crack down on deceptive practices by dubious institutions.

    "We have an obligation to see to it that people have confidence in our institutions, particularly our institutions of higher education, and in the credentials they provide," Bishop said Thursday at an international forum sponsored by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which has undertaken a series of efforts to rein in unauthorized colleges and degrees. "I don't presume that our bill will solve all the problems," but it's a start, said the New York representative, a longtime administrator at Southampton University, on Long Island.

    Defining the exact scope of the diploma mill "industry" and the extent of the havoc it wreaks is difficult precisely because of the underground nature of many of the institutions, which one audience member at Thursday's meeting described as "chameleon-like" and another compared to the "Shmoo," the L'il Abner characters that "multiplied at such an incredible rate." George Gollin, a physics professor who has developed a growing side interest in unaccredited degree-granting institutions and advised Bishop, estimated that such entities award as many as 200,000 credentials a year and that the federal government spends roughly $300 million a year on raises alone for employees who got jobs or promotions using fraudulent degrees or certificates...


  • Pass "Phony Ph.D. Act", Asbury Park, New Jersey Asbury Park Press , January 10, 2010.


    Assembly bill A-3671 doesn't have one of those catchy names sometimes attached to legislation. If it did, it should be called the "H. James Wasser Fake Ph.D. Prevention Act." On Monday, the final day of the lame-duck session, both the Assembly and Senate versions of the bill are expected to be voted on and — thankfully — approved.

    Co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, it would prohibit school employees from receiving tuition assistance or compensation for either academic credits or completion of a degree unless certain conditions are met, including the blindingly obvious ones: namely, that the institution has to be an authorized institution of higher education, not one that sells degrees out of the back of a pick-up truck, and that coursework and degrees have to be related to the employee's current or future job responsibilities.

    Casagrande has introduced an additional bill, to be taken up in the next legislative session, that would expand these rules to all public employees. That, too, deserves passage.

    The shame of it is that such laws are necessary at all. Educators, of all people, should be models of dedicated scholarship and not shy away from the hard work necessary to obtain an advanced degree. And school boards and superintendents shouldn't be reimbursing teachers or administrators for college work that isn't directly related to what they are, or will be, doing as educators. But then along came the discovery in 2008 that Freehold Regional High School District Superintendent H. James Wasser and several current and former staff members received doctoral degrees from a dollars-for-degrees diploma mill.

    There will always be those who are tempted, like Wasser and his ilk, to take the easy way out. This bill will deny them any such opportunity.


  • S'pore on list of degree mill countries, Sandra Davie, Singapore, Asia One, November 28, 2009.


    DEGREE mills that churn out 'graduates' at the drop of a hat are the sort of dodgy outfits we link with shadier parts of the world, but the problem is a lot closer to home and threatens to harm Singapore's name as an education centre.

    Small as it is, the country appears six times on a list compiled by Oregon's Office of Degree Authorisation (ODA).

    The American state has strict laws regarding the use of qualifications from unaccredited institutions and those dubbed 'degree mills' or 'degree suppliers'. It requires that a person's business cards, CV and letterhead declare if his degree is from an unaccredited university.

    The term - degree or diploma mill - has been used in the United States and around the world to refer to 'substandard or fraudulent colleges that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work'. They range from those which are simple frauds - an address to which people send money in exchange for a degree - to those that require some nominal work from the student but do not require the college-level study normally required for a degree.

    Oregon's laws make its list one of the most comprehensive compiled by a state government body in the United States.

    It names six institutions here as offering unaccredited qualifications: Cranston University, Templeton University, Trident University of Technology, Vancouver University Worldwide, Westmore University and Lee Community College.

    Names of institutions go on the list if there are queries made by members of the public. Checks are carried out on the status of the university both in the US and with foreign governments before they are put on the list.

    Checks by The Straits Times found that Westmore University's website is hosted by a company operating out of Science Park.

    Vancouver University Worldwide, which was ordered to be shut by the Canadian government two years ago, had offered its courses here for a few years.

    Several insurance industry professionals have MBAs, while some even have doctorates, from the university.

    A few Singaporeans were also found to have degrees from Cranston University and Templeton University. Both are listed as online universities, based in Singapore and possibly Nevada.

    The Palin School of Arts and Design in Bras Basah lists Trident University of Technology degrees, but Palin officials say that currently they are not offering the degree programme in advertising and design.

    ODA's list says Trident was denied approval by the state of Wisconsin and it was never legal in New Jersey as claimed.

    But what was surprising was the presence on the list of Lee Community College. The private school has a CaseTrust for Education quality mark and is popular for its diploma courses in counselling and psychology.

    The Straits Times found that the school, in Maxwell Road, also offers a degree from the American University for Humanities (AUH), which a staff member said is accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education.

    ODA's website has this to say about the American university: 'New name for American University of Hawaii, which was closed by court order. Operations claiming accreditation from The American Academy for Liberal Education in Lebanon do not meet Oregon legal requirements and degrees are not valid here. Degrees issued from Delaware are not valid in Oregon.'

    Although the school has been offering degree courses for years, a check with the Ministry of Education (MOE) revealed that Lee Community College is not approved to offer any external degree programmes.

    An MOE spokesman said the matter would be investigated.

    It warned that new regulations require all private schools to seek permission from the new statutory board, the Council for Private Education (CPE) before offering external degree programmes, including online programmes.

    Non-compliance may lead to deregistration of the private school and prosecution of its officials.

    Lee Community College's chief executive, Dr Frederick Toke, said the school spent over $100,000 to seek accreditation for the degree programme, which was from the American University for Humanities in Tbilisi, Georgia.

    It was accredited by the American Academy for Liberal Education, a recognised accrediting agency in the US for liberal arts institutions, but was rejected by the MOE.

    Dr Toke did not explain why the school continued to offer the degree despite the MOE rejection. He would only say that the school is now seeking MOE approval to run other degree programmes from the US.

    Mr Alan Contreras, the administrator for Oregon's ODA, said Singapore never used to feature on the ODA's list.

    'The problem Singapore has is that it opened the door to private post-secondary education without establishing a serious governmental oversight process to make those providers prove that they are legitimate,' he said.

    'In effect, your government has allowed its name to be used inappropriately because only government authorised colleges can issue genuine degrees.'

    Mr Contreras also warned: 'Without enforcement of standards by the government, anything goes. This is why the reputation of degrees issued in Singapore is falling.'

    The MOE said that under the new laws that will come into effect by the end of the year, the Council for Private Education will run checks on these claimed partnerships.

    'These measures will help ensure that dubious programmes offered by degree mills will not be permitted by CPE to be offered in Singapore,' said the spokesman.

    But the new laws have come too late for a 26-year-old who attended evening classes and did course work for over three years for an AUH degree from Lee Community College.

    The administrative manager hopes the new laws for private schools will ensure that only valid degrees are offered here.

    'I took up the degree because I was interested in a counselling career. I spent more than $20,000 of my hard-earned money to study for the degree. Now I find out that it is worthless.'



  • Flint woman wants to shut down alleged diploma mill Belford High School via lawsuit, Beata Mostafavi, Flint, Michigan, Flint Journal, November 20, 2009. (Click here for the text of the lawsuit. The plaintiffs have posted more information, including a few of the most recent rulings here. See the PACER docket report for the full set of case documents, including defense filings. Several more documents from the docket report, assembled into one file, are here. [235 pages, 6.4 MB] )


    It was a piece of paper that was supposed to give Carrie McCluskey a second chance.

    Just 10 questions, one week and $250 later, she says the high school diploma stamped with a gold seal was mailed to her Flint home.

    Except, she says, it wasn't real.

    Now the Baker College student is among three people suing a reported diploma mill in a federal lawsuit to try to shut it down.

    "Getting a GED can really help you start your life," said McCluskey, 26, who is studying human resources at Baker. "People who want to give you fake ones are saying they don't care where your life will go. They're just out for your money."

    The lawsuit is against — whose controversial diplomas have made national headlines and been called worthless by the Council of Better Business Bureau Inc.

    A representative who answered a toll free number for the Humble, Texas-based disputed claims that the online school is a scam. The counselor, who identified himself as Dom Wright, said the site does not claim to award GEDs — it awards actual diplomas based on life experience or testing.

    "If this diploma was not accredited or recognized do you think we would still be in business?" Wright asked.

    Despite a warning issued by the Better Business Bureau in August that the diplomas awarded by Belford and other online companies weren't worth the paper they were printed on, Wright contended the school has had 87,000 graduates and is accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities and the Universal Council for Online Education.

    But the Googasian Firm, a Bloomfield Hills-based law firm representing McCluskey and two other students from Arizona and California is calling Belford a "massive rip-off."

    McCluskey, who attended Holly High School but never graduated, said she only recently had an opportunity to go back to school.

    She was advised that online GEDs were faster and cheaper, so she typed keywords on the Internet — and that led her to Belford's Web site, which prominently displays the word "GED" on its pages, although it claims it awards actual diplomas.

    Her Belford diploma came with a 3.9 GPA.

    McCluskey said it was a Baker official who gave her the bad news.

    "They told me they couldn't accept that because they had never heard of that school and it wasn't accredited," she said. "I was pretty upset. I had just paid $250 for something, and now I had to pay more. Most people getting their GEDs don't have that kind of money.

    "You're trying to move forward and someone out there is trying to make you move backwards. I was doing all this to make a better life for me and my family."

    The engaged single mother of two ended up pursuing the GED process again — this time taking an in-person test at Carman-Ainsworth High School.

    Belford's Wright contended that Baker College was among a handful of colleges in Michigan that previously had accepted Belford graduates.

    Baker College officials declined comment on Belford and the case but said the college does not accept Belford High School diplomas.

    "It is an actual high school diploma that is accredited," Wright said. "If they provide us with the rejection letter, we will give them a refund."

    But many local colleges say these types of companies are on their radar.

    MCC officials said they didn't have any students in their system that listed Belford as their high school, but diploma mills were a concern.

    The University of Michigan-Flint also watches for red flags but officials note that students don't necessarily have to come from a high school with specific accreditation — some were home-schooled or attended an international school.

    Transcripts combined with ACT or SAT scores is what's most important, said admissions director Kimberly Williams.

    "It is a concern," Williams said of mills. "But the bigger concern is that students are prepared academically. They have to show us they are prepared for the rigor of our curriculum."

    This isn't the first time Belford High School and Belford University — which is also based in Humble, Texas and also has been accused of selling bogus degrees — have made the news.

    George Gollin, a professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, made headlines last year for his crusade against diploma mills after being offered a doctorate in thoracic surgery at Belford University based on his experience reading newspapers and watching the news.

    In 2008, Gollin helped authorities unravel a global operation that led to a list of 9,600 people who possibly purchased phony degrees — including government employees.

    Along with McCluskey, students Evelyn Reisborff of Arizona and Jaime Yanez of California are also named in what could become a class-action lawsuit against Belford.

    The lawsuit, which does not ask for a specific dollar amount and demands Belford be shut down, accuses the online school of fraud among other charges

    "If you look around the state of our economy, especially in Michigan, people are really hurting," said Dean Googasian, of the Googasian Firm. "A lot of folks are out of work and they're looking for a way to take that first step toward a better job and better life.

    "It's frankly offensive that there are people out there willing to just rip off folks who are looking to better themselves and we're hoping to put a stop to it."


  • Freehold Regional school district wants name of Web site users, Alesha Williams Boyd , Asbury Park, NJ, Asbury Park Press, October 15, 2009.


    Freehold Regional High School District school board has subpoenaed a news organization's Web site for the names of people who have criticized the district leadership in postings.

    According to the subpoena, the district wants to identify forum posters before the board in a disciplinary hearing -- an indicator officials are hunting for district employees.

    The board is demanding the full name, address and e-mail addresses registered for about 20 user names on the site, New Jersey Online,

    Listed user names have criticized Schools Superintendent H. James Wasser's obtaining a doctoral degree from an unaccredited online school. The degree had meant the district paid tuition and a $2,500 annual stipend to the superintendent. Some posts also include unconfirmed allegations about Wasser and district officials.

    Howell representative William Bruno on the school board said he was in favor of the Aug. 31 subpoena.

    "If they have nothing to hide, what's the problem?'' Bruno said.

    But residents say this is the last in a line of attempts to intimidate and silence residents, including one residents' claim he was assaulted by a district security guard and the board's refusal to officially extend public speaker time limits from three minutes to five at meetings.

    "(District officials) rule by fear and terror and this is part of it,'' said Jim Sage of Marlboro, a frequent critic of the board. "If it's true (a subpoena has been filed) I think this is a waste of taxpayers' money yet again. Is it an attempt to silence the critics? Absolutely.''


  • Erie man accused of running online diploma mill back in court: State says accused diploma-mill operator failing to pay settlement, Lisa Thompson, Erie Times-News, October 15, 2009.


    Three years ago, an Erie man pledged to pay $75,000 and move his business out of the state to settle investigators' claims that he was running an illegal online diploma mill.

    The state Attorney General's Office says the defendant, Dennis J. Globosky, has not kept up his side of the bargain.

    Senior Deputy Attorney General Carm Presogna has gone to Erie County Court to ask a judge to cite Globosky for contempt of court and order him to pay $130,035 in civil penalties and costs.

    No hearing has been set in the matter.

    Globosky, whose last known Erie address was 204 German St., has not filed any response, according to court records.

    The case stems from an investigation that began in 2005 and a settlement that was reached in 2007.

    The state Attorney General's Office Bureau of Consumer Protection in July 2005 filed a complaint alleging that Globosky was selling bogus degrees online in violation of consumer protection laws, the Private Licensed Schools Act and the Fictitious Names Act.

    Investigators claimed that Globosky, through entities called "The University of Berkley" and "The University of Berkley Online," sold bogus online degrees, which cost between $2,065 and $4,995. The degrees were based on life experience rather than exams.

    Globosky also provided customers with contact information for their employers to "verify" the authenticity of the degrees, the Attorney General's Office said.

    They alleged Globosky made as much as $34 million selling the degrees. Globosky countered that his students did complete a required curriculum before earning their degrees.

    To settle the complaint, Globosky agreed in 2007 to no longer conduct business with Pennsylvania residents and to post a notice on his online education Web sites that the operators of the sites were barred from doing business with Pennsylvanians.

    He also agreed to pay a civil judgment of $75,000.

    The state Attorney General's Office now says that a review of Globosky's several Web sites in November 2008 revealed that three of them failed to post the notice, as required, that the Web site operators were barred from doing business with Pennsylvanians.

    Presogna has asked the court to order Globosky to pay a civil penalty of $15,000 for those violations, plus $34,335 to cover the costs of the state's contempt proceedings.

    She also said that Globosky has failed to keep up with a schedule to pay the $75,000 judgment entered in 2007.

    She wants a judge to order Globosky to pay the arrearage, $30,700, plus a $50,000 civil penalty for failing to make payments on time.

    Globosky should not be permitted to operate any business in Pennsylvania or conduct business with Pennsylvania residents until the matter is resolved, the state Attorney General's Office said.


  • Press Release: Governor Schwarzenegger has Signed 79 Bills and Vetoed 89 Bills, Office of the Governor, State of California, October 11, 2009.

    One of the bills signed by the Governor is AB 48 by Assemblymember Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) - Private postsecondary education: California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009.


    Click here to see the text of the bill


  • State revokes, suspends licenses, certifications, registrations of health care providers, Washington State department of Health, September 28, 2009.


    For immediate release: September 28, 2009 (09-155)

    Media inquiries: Gordon MacCracken, Communications Office 360-236-4072
    Public inquiries: Health Systems Customer Service 360-236-4700

    State revokes, suspends licenses, certifications, registrations of health care providers

    OLYMPIA: The Washington State Department of Health has revoked or suspended the licenses, certifications, or registrations of health care providers in our state. The department has also immediately suspended the credentials of people who have been prohibited from practicing in other states.

    The department's Health Systems Quality Assurance Office works with boards, commissions and advisory committees to set licensing standards for more than 70 health care professions (e.g., medical doctors, nurses, counselors).

    Information about health care providers is on the agency's Web site. Click on "Provider Credential Search" on the left hand side of the Department of Health home page ( The site includes information about a health care provider's license status, the expiration and renewal date of their credential, disciplinary actions and copies of legal documents issued after July 1998. This information is also available by calling 360-236-4700. Consumers who think a health care provider acted unprofessionally are also encouraged to call and report their complaint...

    Pierce County

    ...In July 2009 the Registered Counselor and Chemical Dependency Professional Programs indefinitely suspended the credentials of David Charles Larsen (RC.RC.00021390, CDP.CP.00000530). Larsen purchased a Doctor of Psychology degree from St. Regis University, an online "diploma mill". He misrepresented his education and training on a resume he submitted for a counseling position...


  • AMCOM Commanding General Responds to Fake Diploma Investigation Major General Jim Myles sends us 3-minute pre-taped interview, discredits our reports in memo to Team Redstone , Wendy Halloran, Denise Vicker, Huntsville, Alabama, WHNT News, July 29, 2009.


    In May, WHNT NEWS 19 exposed several people passing off bogus diplomas. They were all connected to the military or missile defense. Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran broke the story and promised to stay on top of it and get answers for viewers. But in some cases, that has been more challenging than we expected.

    You may wonder what's the big deal? There are a lot of reasons. Among them, it's not fair to those people who got degrees the hard way and may have gotten passed over for a promotion by someone who took a shortcut. And, in a field where honesty and integrity are expected - in fact demanded - it's ultimately a breach of trust.

    Our investigation exposed enlisted members of the military in Alabama who presented degrees they bought for a fraction of what it really costs and got a return on the investment with an increase in pay grade. Your tax dollars footed that bill.

    Sergeant Major Tom Gills of the Army Human Resources Command told us, "To have someone who would go and do something like this sickens me." His office responded swiftly. "I can tell you that what it has caused is a great opportunity for change and we couldn't have done this without your help in discovery," he said.

    We turned over more than 200 names to the Army's Human Resources Command. A number we described in our initial report as a "battalion of others who potentially flew under the radar."

    Gills said, "One is too many. And, each and every one we're going to identify we're going to turn it over to their commanders for appropriate action."

    As a result of our investigation, the Army is examining all records in order to identify soldiers who bought fake degrees and transcripts and turned them over for promotions. They even sent out an all-Army message from the Pentagon to raise awareness and reinforce the Army's standards.

    "Each case, it is significant and it just smacks at those core values that we live by," stated Gills.

    We also exposed a defense contractor with two bogus degrees.

    James Samuelson works for Applied Data Trends and has security clearance. He admitted it was wrong and explained what prompted him to buy the phony credentials.

    "To be 100% honest, what prompted me to get it was that my daughter was about to graduate from college and I have dealt with years of being highly experienced and not having a degree," he confessed.

    We promised to follow up with his employer. ADT CEO Derrick Copeland sent us a statement which indicated the following:

    'ADT has and continues to take appropriate action regarding the situation. On the advice of ADT's legal counsel, ADT does not publically discuss internal matters such as this.'

    The probe widened to the Department of the Army civilian side after we exposed Army Aviation and Missile Command's Director of Readiness Chris Oleyte. He bought and used a fake degree in a resume he turned in for a promotion and got.

    Our report triggered a Commander's Inquiry at Redstone Arsenal. But, getting straight answers about the Oleyte matter and the 15 other names of AMCOM employees we turned over with questionable credentials has been an uphill battle.

    For weeks, we've asked for an interview with Redstone Arsenal's Commanding General Jim Myles. Instead, we received a pre-taped statement from Major General Myles supplied to us on a DVD.

    In it, Myles states, "One thing I want to say right up front is that this Command is all about integrity."

    We were told by e-mail that the three-minute DVD "appropriately addressed these concerns."

    In the DVD, Myles went on to say, " There are no operational security issues surrounding false diplomas that anyone has. There are quite simply none."

    We responded, letting them know it didn't answer all of our questions and in some cases fueled even more. But still, they wouldn't agree to an interview and relied solely on the DVD.

    "Out of the 2,300 employees we looked at, there were only six that we found that still had a false diploma."

    We know the actual number of people possessing fake degrees at Redstone Arsenal is a very small percentage of the workforce. A point Major Myles made in his taped remarks when he said, "99.8% of all employees are doing things properly and as they should be in accordance with what our polices are and in place."

    We made it perfectly clear in our initial report that we were not suggesting Mr. Oleyte is not qualified for the job he currently holds. But, we still have questions about security, integrity, and a potential double standard. We couldn't pose those questions. All we have to go on is the prepared response in which Myles stated, "I fully support that the chain of command did what it should have done in July 2002. And quite frankly, this is old news."

    Our quest for the full story has put us at odds with the Commanding General at AMCOM. He sent out a memo to Team Redstone discrediting our reports - calling them inaccurate, misleading and speculative at best.

    We vigorously defend the accuracy of our reports. You can watch Major Myles' entire pre-taped response here.

    We're also sharing his memo to the workforce at Redstone Arsenal about our investigation.


  • Got money, got degree, Teh Eng Hock, Karen Chapman, Royce Cheah, Hariati Azizan, and Rashvinjeet S.Bedi, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, The Star, August 23, 2009.


    YOU do not have to study, seek admission or attend lectures – starting from a few hundred ringgit, you can get a degree of your choice online in a matter of minutes.

    A quick Internet search by the Starprobe team resulted in a long list of alleged degree mills worldwide such as Hill University, Rochville University and Buxton University.

    All these institutions of higher learning claim to be accredited, but none is recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA) or the local accreditation body's respective foreign partners.

    Whether to boost their career development or to improve their social standing, many Malaysians have taken the easy way of buying their paper qualifications online.

    And among the holders of these dubious qualifications are some prominent people, including lawmakers from both sides of the political divide.

    When the Washington-based newspaper Spokesman Review exposed a bogus degree scam in the United States in July, a list of 10,000 buyers was made public.

    Phoney degrees

    More than 50 Malaysians contributed to the US$7.3mil (RM25.6mil) generated by the Spokane-based syndicate, which issued phoney and counterfeit high school and college degrees from institutions such as Concordia University, St Regis University, St Lourdes University, All Saints American University and Heartland University.

    However, several people who are suspected to be holding these bogus degrees declined to comment or furnish the Starprobe team with their curriculum vitae when contacted.

    As the diploma mill trend shows, almost anyone can get a degree.

    The standard prerequisites needed are experience, skills, knowledge or expertise in a given field of study, all which the buyer easily meets by declaring so in the registration form without needing to provide any documentary proof.

    The buyer can even specify a past date or year of graduation to be stated in the degree.

    These sites offer a wide and comprehensive range of qualifications, from high school certifications, Bachelors and Masters degrees to doctorates.

    Buyers are promised a traditional-looking degree, which means none of the certificates contain words like online or life experience.

    The offers are so comprehensive that some even provide an academic transcript, a certificate of distinction and an award of excellence, plus verification from the university's registrar to boot.

    Some even offer packages, which means you could obtain your Bachelors, Masters and PhD at one go at a discounted special rate.

    These syndicates promise to deliver your graduation package, which starts from US$150 (RM525), between five and 14 days by courier.

    One website even goes to the extent of offering buyers the option to pay in instalments.

    Many dubious organisations passing themselves off as universities are legally registered business entities.

    Some even submit their annual tax returns in the country they are registered at, but do not conduct any shady dealings in their "home" country, thus not breaking any law in the nation they are registered in.

    According to the Irish Embassy, the Irish International University (IIU) is registered as a private company in Ireland, while Dublin Metropolitan University (DMU) had a business address in Cyprus.

    According to its website, the IIU, which is now known as the Isles International University, has its main international office in Petaling Jaya even though it was blacklisted by the Malaysian Government in 2005. Its head is executive president Hardeep Singh Sandhu, a Malaysian businessman.

    In January last year, a BBC London investigation team exposed IIU as an international education scam that targets foreign students who went to study in the British capital.

    "The bogus Irish International University (IIU), which offers sub-standard and worthless degrees, has been allowed to flourish in the UK – virtually unchecked by Government – for the last seven years," said BBC in the report.

    Many of its programmes and courses are offered via the Internet to "students" from various nations without the need for it to set up a base in those countries.

    As Irish ambassador to Malaysia Eugene Hutchinson shares, the embassy frequently gets enquiries from potential employers or students on the "dubious" institutions.

    "They are not recognised as a university or as any other form of academic institution in Ireland. Any awards that they offer are not recognised by any statutory awarding bodies in Ireland and therefore have no academic standing whatsoever in our country," he says.

    He adds that the Irish authorities do not view them as universities although their names were clearly intended to convey so. "As can be seen from their websites, these enterprises continue to use the term university in their business names, in contravention of Irish law.

    "The IIU and other similar business enterprises are endeavouring to exploit the good name of Irish education for their own ends. Their claims of 'validation' and 'accreditation' deserve very careful critical examination," he points out.

    Dubious methods

    These organisations are aware that they are being monitored by the Irish authorities, and they try to keep tabs by contacting the embassy in return.

    "Frequently, they call to see what we know. Sometimes they pretend to be making enquiries as a third party. We try to keep correspondence with them to a minimum as we do not want them to claim that they were in correspondence with the Irish authorities (thus making it appear as endorsed by them)," he says, adding that Ireland had distanced itself from the IIU and DMU.

    Interestingly, Irish deputy ambassador to Malaysia Eoin Duggan highlights that these enterprises do not conduct any of their operations in Ireland.

    "They are a registered business in Ireland. They make a tax return annually, hence they are not illegal. I have not heard of any Irish who has obtained degrees from them," he says.

    To make themselves even more attractive, some of these "universities" would set up or become a member of an equally dubious "accreditation body".

    Many provide hotline numbers and e-mail addresses of the "universities" and "accreditation bodies", which are usually passed on by the "graduates" to their potential employers should these companies want to verify the qualifications of their prospective employees.

    Former vice-chancellor of Sunway University College Prof Jarlath Ronayne concurs, also citing the BBC report on IIU, which had claimed that its programmes were accredited and quality controlled by QAC-UK Ltd – a Quality Assurance Commission based in London.

    Further investigation, however, revealed that the people behind the "university" were also co-directors of the accreditation body.

    "There are a few of these accreditation agencies that are not Government sanctioned or authorised. They are 'private' accreditation bodies and cater to institutions that are not accredited by their respective governments," he says.

    Echoing this, a source from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) shares that the formal or legal national accreditation or quality assurance agency of a particular country would be a member of International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE).

    Prof Ronayne highlights that one of the ways for bogus universities to gain credibility was by inviting prominent people such as politicians and business leaders to be the guests of honour at their convocations. He adds that the convocation ceremonies can sometimes be quite grand.

    "They have their convocation ceremonies in Oxford and Cambridge where they rent the universities' halls. That would give students a false impression," he says.

    Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (Macee) advises students to check with the particular country's educational office to verify if the programme or institution is authentic before signing up.

    "If it's an American degree or institution, they should contact Macee as we provide information on all accredited universities and colleges in the United States (US)," says Macee Educational Advising Center coordinator Doreen John.

    Students could also check with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation ( website as it has a database of institutions and programmes accredited by recognised US organisations, says John.

    "If students want to opt for distance learning, they have to be extra cautious. "If the programme they want to do is such a bargain in terms of cost, and they don't need to do any work for it then it is probably fake," she adds.

    British Council Malaysia Education and Programmes Director Peter Clack also advises students to check if the British course or institution they are interested in is authentic and officially recognised before signing up.

    Students can take several steps, he says, including meeting the institutions' representatives at the Education UK exhibitions organised by the British Council; and logging onto the Education UK website ( for lists of institutions and courses.

    They could also check if the name of the institution appears on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) website (, and if the institutions' own website address ends with

    To ensure that the institutions were empowered to offer degrees, students could check the UK's Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills' website (

    As for accreditation, Clack says the official quality assurance bodies were the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education website (www. or the British Accreditation Council website (

    Students planning to take up Irish courses are advised to consult the list of higher education providers on or refer to Ireland's National Framework of Qualifications at

    National Association of Private Educational Institutions (Napei) president Assoc Prof Elajsolan Mohan advises employers who were unsure of any prospective employees' qualifications to verify them.

    "An individual once applied to my college to become a lecturer but when we checked his qualifications, we discovered the university where he claimed to have done his PhD did not exist," he says.


  • Unmasking degree mills and bogus varsities , Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, The Star, August 23, 2009.


    SO you have been accepted into California Southern University? Don't celebrate yet.

    Although the university may sound like the renowned research institution University of Southern California, it is not accredited by the official accreditation agencies in the United States. It may even be a degree mill.

    Similarly, University of Hawaii is a major university. Honolulu University, however, is not. Try to figure out which of the following is legitimate: the European Business School in London or the European Business School in Cambridge?

    It is difficult to work out which institutions are genuine and which are bogus because the names are similar. The same applies to accreditation bodies – the Council for Higher Education Accreditation is a respected body; not so the Council for International Education Accreditation.

    To complicate matters further, today's quick-buck degree mills have more sophisticated operations, complete with "professors" and alumni. Here are a few of the infamous organisations:

    Irish International University

    Soon after Malaysia's Higher Education Ministry (MOHE) blacklisted the institution in July 2005, it changed its name to Isles International University. It has been operating for about a decade and boasts a long list of faculty and students stretching from Europe to Asia. It still maintains an office in Petaling Jaya.

    Dublin Metropolitan University

    It also has an international office in the Klang Valley. It was investigated by the Irish government for illegally calling itself a university without the approval of Ireland's Department of Education and Science. The Irish government is looking at measures to deregister institutions like this, which are legally registered as business entities.

    Cambridgeshire University

    In 2005, an MBA student was refunded her tuition fees of RM13,672.34 by education provider NetAcademy Sdn Bhd, which offered courses from both Irish International University and Cambridgeshire, after she won her case at the Consumer Claims Tribunal. Cambridgeshire University has been blacklisted by the Government.

    Preston University

    Preston University is a private for-profit unaccredited university with allegedly 30 affiliated campuses throughout the world. Preston was based in Wyoming but moved to Alabama in 2007 after the state's crackdown on diploma mills. In 2009, the Alabama state administration ordered it to cease operations for failing to meet its educational standards. Preston University is now based in Los Angeles, California.

    Newport University

    Newport University claims to be based in California and has more than 20 branches all over the world, including Belgium, China and Malaysia. It is not recognised by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

    Pacific Western University

    Pacific Western University (Hawaii) was closed in 2006 by the State of Hawaii for not being accredited by any accreditation body recognised by the state. Its degrees and credits might not be acceptable to employers or other institutions.


  • Dodgy degrees, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, The Star, August 23, 2009.


    Malaysians are so caught up with degrees that many would go to any lengths for one.

    And degree mills — bodies that award degrees with little or no study — are ready to hand out the awards to many who want to boost their business position, social status or political standing.

    The Starprobe's search reveals that many Malaysians are buying dubious Bachelor's, Master's and even Doctorates from popular degree "conferring" bodies, among them the American-based Preston Uni-versity and Newport University; Dublin Metropolitan University (DMU) and Irish International University (IIU).

    Other dubious institutions which are not in recognised accreditation registries include Connaught University, Pacific Western University, American Northeast State University, Western University, European University, Hill University, Rochville University and Buxton University.

    When the Starprobe team conducted a search, including on the Internet, for the "alumni" of these degree mills, the list included prominent personalities in different sectors:

    (Photo caption) Cambodian premier Hun Sen (right) receiving his honorary degree from Irish International University head, a Malaysian called Hardeep Singh Sandhu, in 2007.

    > a Selangor Umno division chief who is also chairman of a local publishing group (MBA, Connaught University, UK);

    > a Kedah Umno division head and Umno Supreme Council member who became a self-made millionaire after school (MBA, Preston University, US);

    > a Perak DAP state assemblyman (Bachelor of Business Administration, Paramount University of Technology, US) ;

    > a retired Royal Malaysian Police department director who is now serving in a government body (MBA, Newport University, US);

    > a leading Chinese educationist with three PhDs (PhD, Kensington University, US);

    > a celebrity motivational speaker who has set up a private college (MBA and Doctorate of Business Administration (DBA), European Business School Cambridge of European Union);

    > a top entrepreneur and chairman of one of Malaysia's leading manufacturers (DBA, Irish International University); and

    > a chairman of a local IT media company who was charged with furnishing false statement to the Bursa Malaysia (Bachelor of Science in Building Construction and Management, Connaught University, Ireland; MBA, North West London University, UK; and Doctorate of Philosophy in Business Administration, Pacific Western University, US).

    The questionable "qualification" is evident in the official resumes of these public figures which the Starprobe team obtained from their offices or official websites.

    When contacted, some were genuinely surprised to find out that they had been duped but others evaded questions and refused to comment.

    One person with two alleged doctorates did not deny receiving the bogus doctorates but simply urged Starprobe to quote his third doctorate from the Southern Cross University, Australia, which is legitimate.

    All the universities mentioned claim to be accredited, but none is recognised by the national accrediting body Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) or its foreign accrediting partners.

    The IIU was blacklisted by MQA(then known as National Accreditation Board) in July 2005.

    A disturbing trend is that these dodgy institutions offer prominent personalities degrees so they can gain credibility with the "qualifications".

    This is the standard practice for many of these bogus universities, said a senior Irish academic attached to a local private university who declined to be named.

    "These institutions go to another country, especially in the less developed and developing world, and offer local prominent personalities doctorates and other degrees. These are not honorary degrees but they don't ask the VIPs for money either.

    "They just invite the important people to put in a 1,500-word essay or write something about themselves, and they 'award' them their degrees.

    "It becomes an endorsement of sorts — when the institutions get complaints from parents and students, they will simply point out the important people who have their degrees," he explained, adding that it is prevalent because it is win-win for both parties.

    "The institutions get the chance to be set up and the important people get their paper qualification."

    Republic of Ireland deputy ambassador to Malaysia Eoin Duggan highlighted another device for these universities to gain credibility.

    They would invite VIPs, including politicians, to their convocations and sometimes confer on them honorary degrees.

    "Their presence gives the ceremony importance. Having, say, a junior minister's name on their list meanwhile would add credibility to the institution's name," he said.

    For example, IIU's previous honorary luminaries include a senator who is famous for championing minority rights, the president of one of Barisan Nasional's component parties and the director of a local think tank.

    Although most have wised up and dropped the dubious qualification from their resume, a few still list it in their academic credentials.

    Education blogger Tony Pua believes that half of those holding bogus degrees knew that their "qualifications" were not bona fide.

    "It lends credence to the university to have VIPs on their list. But if you can get a doctorate without doing any research, it is a fake one. It is impossible to get a credible doctorate via a long distance learning programme, especially if you are studying part-time," said Pua, the Petaling Jaya Utara MP.

    British Council Malaysia Education and Programmes Director Peter Clack agrees, pointing out that a degree is intended to reward academic excellence and requires hard work and commitment as that is what gives it its value with employers.

    "If a degree course sounds too good to be true, then it is more than likely to be a bogus one," he said.

    Unfortunately, there is nothing much that authorities can do to stamp out this fraudulent practice.

    Although the respective governments are aware of these dubious institutions, they have not been able to fully eliminate them as many are legitimately registered as business entities or exist mainly in the virtual world.

    Many can only advise the public about the "bogus" institutions, like Ireland, which is distancing itself from the institutions claiming to be Irish.

    However, these "bogus" bodies are experts in evading authorities; further checks revealed that IIU had changed its name to Isles International University. It has even maintained an international office in Petaling Jaya.

    The degree mill issue has become such that the United Nations declared a war on this worldwide industry of fraudulent qualifications in June.

    Calling it "an emerging academic corruption", the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has issued a guideline for countries around the world to help eradicate these degree mills.


  • Arab 'universities' mushrooming in the Netherlands, Tariq al-Qaziri, Radio Netherland, July 27, 2009.


    Seven Arab universities have recently been established in The Hague. Some of them train pilots, others offer courses in Islamic sciences or nuclear physics. But far from everybody is convinced that the degrees the universities offer hold any value.

    Dr Khalil, an Iraqi man in his mid fifties, is visibly proud of the Free University in The Hague of which he is the vice-rector. He describes it as a 'non-profit organisation' providing education for Arabs who migrated to the Netherlands for economic reasons. Only a handful of people work at his office in a modern building in The Hague; there are no students to be seen. According to Dr Khalil, the actual teaching takes place at another location that is not accessible at the moment of the interview. He adds that his university also teaches by mail and through Paltalk, an internet chat programme.

    All teaching at the Free University is in Arabic. "Most of the books written in the English language are translated from the Arabic anyway", explains Dr Khalil. This year, he says, 150 bachelor students, 32 master students and 25 PhD students will obtain their degrees in various subjects, including political science, philosophy and law.

    The Free University is not the only one of its kind. There are six more in The Hague, all established by Iraqis in the past few years. In fact, Dr Khalil happens to be the rector of one of them: La Haye University, which is located in the same building. He has established this university himself, he says, because the Free University could not accommodate certain subjects. The website of La Haye University mentions an agreement with the Royal Jordanian Aviation College, to train 100 pilots and 200 aviation engineers.

    Another member of the board of directors of the Free University has his own university as well, which is called the Dutch University for Science and Arts. Each of the three universities calls itself the 'friend' of the other two.

    Outside the Netherlands, this mushrooming of Arab universities has already caused some commotion. Some time ago, the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education reported that a certain 'Open University' in the Netherlands sold high academic degrees to Iraqis who did not have any academic training. Some of these degrees, it said, were in very specific fields such as nuclear physics. More recently, the Swedish Ministry of Education issued a warning against fake universities, mentioning in particular the Free University of Sweden, an affiliate of the Free University in The Hague.

    Dr Khalil is not concerned about the Swedish warning, saying it is based on a misunderstanding. But in the Netherlands, too, doubts are growing stronger. The Free University was recently expelled from the Dutch organisation the Platform for Recognised Private Educational Institutions (PAEPON) 'for the misleading information it distributes on its website'.

    Life experience
    Dr Khalil himself holds no fewer than three PhD degrees. One is from the Free University of which he himself is the vice rector. According to a publication of his university, he further obtained a PhD in Administration from the United States, but no particular university there is mentioned. And in his CV, Dr Khalil finally mentions a PhD from Suffield university. This American institute - not to be confused with the well-known Sheffield University in the United Kingdom - issues degrees on the basis of 'life experience'.

    In the Netherlands anyone who takes the trouble to visit to the local Chamber of Commerce and pay about 50 euros can put a sign on his door that reads 'university'. That is not to say, of course, that this 'university' and the degrees it offers are recognised by the Dutch authorities. But Dr Khalil is optimistic. Dutch law, he knows, stipulates that a university can only apply for official recognition four years after it is established. So the recognition of the Free University is "only a matter of time."


  • Using fake degrees now a misdemeanor in Missouri, Kavita Kumar, St. Louis, Missouri Post-Dispatch, July 9, 2009.


    Cheaters beware. It is now a misdemeanor in Missouri to use a fake degree or one from a diploma mill to apply for a job, admission to a college or in connection with any business, job or public office.

    Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to sign a bill today that will make it so. In doing so, Missouri joins about a dozen other states that have similar laws on the books.

    The Missouri Department of Higher Education had pushed legislators to create such a bill to make sure Missouri is not a friendly place to phony diplomas and transcripts that are readily available on the Internet.

    The department discovered a couple of cases in Missouri — including a St. Charles couple who tried to pass off fake degrees from St. Charles Community College and Lindenwood University to get teaching jobs in Florida. (See my story from December that I have pasted below for more on this.)

    Leroy Wade, an assistant commissioner of higher education, noted in a news release that most often the use of fake degrees goes undetected.

    "Unless an employer has a reason to be suspicious, they often accept documentation at face value," he said. "The new legislation calls attention to the problem and puts people on notice that using phony documents is a crime."



  • Man given job of closing bogus colleges was sacked by university, Andrew Norfolk , London Times Online, June 29, 2009.


    A company awarded an important role in the Government's attempt to shut down hundreds of bogus colleges is run by a man who was dismissed from his post at a university, The Times has discovered.

    Maurice Dimmock is the director and chief executive of an organisation that inspects and accredits private colleges which want to admit foreign students. The Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC) has given 180 institutions the stamp of approval since he set it up in 2007.

    Among them is a Manchester college that The Times exposed last month as the front for an immigration scam which helped 1,000 fake students to enter or stay in Britain.

    The head office of ASIC, one of seven government-approved accreditation bodies, is a semi-detached house in a village near Middlesbrough. The company has five staff. Its directors are Mr. Dimmock, 59, and his wife, Margaret, 52. The company secretary is her 78-year-old father.

    Until 2003 Mr Dimmock was the director of international operations at Northumbria University, with responsibility for overseas students. He and the university have refused to discuss why his employment was terminated, but The Times has established that the Home Office received, and ignored, concerns about ASIC and Mr. Dimmock before it granted the company a contract. Northumbria University wrote to the Home Office in May 2007 to question the role the company was about to be given in distinguishing between genuine and bogus colleges. Two months later Universities UK, representing Britain's 133 universities, wrote to Liam Byrne, the Immigration Minister, to "express concern about the decision to approve ASIC as one of the accreditation bodies within the new immigration system".

    In a letter to the Home Affairs Select Committee, which has responded to articles in The Times by holding an inquiry into bogus colleges, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe, chief executive of Universities UK, raised further doubts about ASIC. She said: "There is a lack of information and transparency about (ASIC's) management, governance and financial structures. Several of the colleges that it accredits have been associated with inappropriate activities."

    In November, ASIC accredited King's College of Management, Manchester, which claimed to have 67 students. The Times disclosed last month that it had enrolled 1,178 foreigners and was offering places to another 1,575. Individuals at the college were selling diplomas and faking attendance records to fool the authorities into granting students leave to stay in Britain.

    Mr. Dimmock told The Times that ASIC had rejected 15 of the 195 colleges that it had inspected, including Manchester College of Professional Studies. It claimed to have 50 students, but secretly enrolled 1,797, including 8 of the 10 Pakistani citizens arrested in April for suspected involvement in an al-Qaeda terror plot.

    Mr. Dimmock said that ASIC used 25 inspectors, many of them former university professors experienced in international education. Their attempts to separate genuine colleges from those involved in immigration fraud were hampered, he said, by the Home Office's refusal to tell ASIC how many student visas were issued for each college it inspects. "We don't see ourselves purely as acting as policemen. We are there to identify those colleges which are genuine, as far as we can see," he said.

    A UK Border Agency spokesman confirmed that concerns about ASIC had been passed to the Home Office, but said that the Home Office relied on the recommendations of Ofsted in determining which accreditation bodies should receive contracts.

    An Ofsted spokewoman said that it had assessed ASIC before it became an approved accreditation body in 2007 and was "satisfied that it was operating in a satisfactory manner".

    There is no suggestion that most of the 180 colleges accredited by ASIC are linked to immigration scams.


  • Michigan man sentenced in international student visa scheme: Last of four defendants sentenced, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement , Detroit, Michigan press release, June 11, 2009.


    DETROIT - A Dearborn resident who submitted phony college transcripts to universities in order to get bogus transfer credits to gain students admission to graduate and medical school programs, and who helped foreign students obtain U.S. student visas based on false documents, was sentenced to two years in federal prison today, United States Attorney Terrence Berg announced.

    Berg was joined in the announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI and Brian Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Nazeer Hamadneh, 40, of Dearborn, Michigan was sentenced today to 24 months in prison by United States District Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff in Port Huron, Michigan.

    "This sentence reflects the serious nature of these crimes. Individuals who gain entry into the United States and into a college or university through fraud undermine the vetting process and could put the public at risk," said Brian M. Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations for Michigan and Ohio. "ICE will continue to work with our partners to close this vulnerability."

    According to court records, Hamadneh pleaded guilty on March 10, 2009 to Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Visa Fraud. Co-defendants Abbas Obeid aka Adam Obeid, 34, of Ontario, Canada, Roni Aoub, 27, of Southfield, and Majed Mamo, 40, of Wixom, Michigan all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Abbas Obeid also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

    According to the indictment filed in this case, from August 2000 through August 2008, Hamadneh and his co-defendants conspired to defraud educational institutions such as Lawrence Technological University in Southfield and Madonna University in Livonia by submitting fraudulent undergraduate transcripts so that individuals, who paid a fee to the conspirators, would fraudulently obtain transfer credits from those institutions.

    These credits were applied toward undergraduate degrees. Fraudulent transcripts were also submitted so that individuals would be accepted for enrollment in graduate programs. The indictment alleges that, in exchange for money, the conspirators submitted fraudulent undergraduate transcripts to medical schools located in the Caribbean and Belize on behalf of students who otherwise had insufficient undergraduate credits to enter medical school.

    The indictment alleges that as a result of the defendants' actions, otherwise unqualified students were admitted to medical school based on the submission of fraudulent undergraduate transcripts. In addition, the indictment alleges that defendants Nazeer Hamadneh and Abbas Obeid conspired to submit and submitted fraudulent documents on behalf of foreign students in order to obtain student visas. The indictment further alleges that defendants Nazeer Hamadneh and Majed Mamo tampered with witnesses in an effort to prevent witnesses from providing truthful information to law enforcement.

    United States Attorney Terrence Berg said, "The whole of society is victimized by a scheme that allows unqualified persons to pay for phony transcripts and college credits that will get them into a graduate or medical school where they do not belong. Of greater concern is any scheme that permits student visas to be obtained under false pretenses. We will be vigilant to protect against the abuses demonstrated in this case."

    "Individuals who buy and sell fraudulent college credits not only cheat the educational system; but when used for medical school admissions may endanger public health. Additionally, this undermines the student visa program by allowing individuals into this country who fail to follow through on their obligation to continue their higher education," said Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office.

    The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken.



  • State GOP vice-chair refuses to answer allegations about his Ph.D., diploma mill, Bob Geary, Durham, North Carolina, Independent Weekly, June 24, 2009.


    Timothy Johnson, the newly elected vice chairman of the state Republican party, is listed as "Dr. Johnson" on his and the state GOP's Web sites. But he's not a medical doctor or dentist. And he won't disclose where he earned his Ph.D., leaving the impression that he got it from a now-defunct school once notorious as a diploma mill.

    The Indy contacted Johnson to ask whether his claimed "Ph.D., Concentration in Total Quality Management, LaSalle University (2000)" was issued by the defunct LaSalle in Louisiana, the accredited La Salle University in Pennsylvania or another LaSalle.

    Johnson responded in an e-mail, "I hope you understand when I say I am not going to answer any more questions about my military experience, education background or personal history."

    He added: "It just doesn't matter at this point. I am sorry, but enough is enough. Have a great weekend."

    His e-mail signature read: "Timothy F. Johnson, Ph.D."

    The accredited La Salle University, a Catholic institution with three campuses in Pennsylvania, confers a doctoral degree only in clinical psychology, according to its Web site.

    The LaSalle in Louisiana, however, as the authoritative Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2001, operated as a diploma mill from 1986 to mid-1997, essentially selling degrees (it advertised heavily on matchbook covers) until the FBI raided and shut it down. Its owner, Thomas J. Kirk, was imprisoned for mail and tax fraud, among other charges. That "university" employed no faculty, only secretaries to handle the paperwork and the money.

    In late '97, according to the Chronicle, the Louisiana LaSalle was purchased by seemingly "serious" owners including the then-chairwoman of the Louisiana Republican party. They later folded LaSalle's assets into their newly formed company, the Orion Education Corp., after failing to win accreditation for LaSalle from the Distance Education and Training Council in 1999.

    Johnson's résumé is included on the Web site of Leadership 101, a company that offers him as its CEO and "lead consultant." Leadership 101 lists its business is "training leaders for success in the 21st century."

    Johnson, the Web site promises, is "entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring."

    Johnson is also employed as an adjunct faculty member at Shaw University's Asheville campus. He was in the U.S. Army from 1984 to 2007 in active and reserve roles, starting as an enlisted soldier and retiring with the rank of major, according to a document he released prior to the state GOP convention when his military service was questioned.

    The 1,600 delegates to the GOP convention in Raleigh this month chose Johnson as their No. 2 official, despite the news—widely circulated by his opponents and broken publicly by the Asheville media the week before the convention—that he'd pleaded guilty in 1996 to a felonious assault on his first wife. A resident of Cleveland, Ohio at the time, Johnson received an 18-month suspended sentence contingent on his relocating to Toledo, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. (Johnson was then seeking an Ohio legislative seat as a Democrat.)

    Johnson asked convention delegates to forgive his past mistake and, in accordance with his slogan ("It's Time"), make him the first African-American officer in the state GOP since the 19th century.

    On the floor of the convention, Johnson campaigned wearing his "Dr. Timothy F. Johnson" name tag despite the rumors already circulating that his doctorate was bogus. At the time, the rumors took a backseat to his criminal record, though, and most delegates seemed to be unaware of questions about his educational background when they voted.

    Their attention, moreover, was on the hotly contested race for party chairman, won by former Raleigh Mayor Tom Fetzer. (See "The very, very, very small tent," June 17.)

    When he was elected chair of the Buncombe County Republican party in 2008, Johnson did not disclose his criminal record because, he told the Indy in an interview at the convention, it was "nobody's business" except his second wife's, and he did tell her.

    Chris McClure, executive director of the state GOP, did not return a phone call or answer an e-mail asking the basis for the party's listing of Johnson, its new vice-chair, as "Dr. Timothy Johnson."


  • Is there a doctor in the house? Answer carefully, Sultan Al Qassemi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates The National, June 20, 2009.


    Last year after writing We have our own heroes, we don't need other people's in The National I received an e-mail from a director in the Watani programme that began: "Dear Dr Sultan." I must admit that I thought it was a nice compliment, but the thought stopped there and I promptly emailed him back, thanked him and pointed out that I do not have a PhD.

    More recently, one of my students from the Dubai Men's College invited me to lecture at a young professionals network he is part of at a real estate development firm. I decided to focus on ethical and moral dilemmas in life and in the business world such as the "Trolley Dilemma" – look it up on Wikipedia.

    The truth is there are plenty of moral dilemmas that confront us in the UAE, many of them dealing with education and credentials. For instance, an acquaintance of mine had casually purchased his degree from a foreign university and is currently running a branch of a major financial institution. Should I inform the authorities and "do the right thing" and potentially harm his young family's interests? There is no easy answer.

    One of the most embarrassing moments in the first administration of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came when the country's parliament voted to impeach the former Interior Minister – the former head of the very same ministry that announced Ahmadinejad's recent "landslide victory." The minister, Ali Kordan, was accused of lying about his credentials and holding a fake degree from what he called "Oxford University in London ."

    The most notorious case facing the UAE was when The Spokesman-Review, a newspaper based in Washington state, exposed more than 9,600 people who had purchased their degrees from a fraudulent diploma mill. The list included dozens of individuals based in the UAE. These "students" had names that appeared to be Arab, European, African and Asian and they may or may not be currently employed in the UAE or in the region, possibly in influential positions.

    A total of 68 Emiratis were among these naive "degree holders" as well as scores of other GCC nationals. These young Emiratis may have travelled abroad with the intention to study but in some cases found themselves spending too much time basking in their freedom. With limited follow up from their families or their embassies abroad, particularly in large countries such as the US and Australia, it would not have been difficult to succumb to this temptation.

    This is by far not a challenge specific to the UAE. Last year Singapore announced that it had caught 400 locals and expatriates working there who had falsified their degrees. According to a report published in The Straits Times of Singapore, there are three groups of people who resort to buying degrees. The first is young people who were not successful in their studies and want to prove that they have achieved an academic qualification to get a job and support their families. The second group is comprised of employees who seek to get a raise at their current job or who are trying to find a new one. The third is a group of businessmen – who are already successful – who want the prestige of a qualification that can also help them in their business dealings. For instance, recently The New York Times profiled a UAE personality who had been referring to himself as a doctor. The newspaper discovered that the university where he studied does not even offer PhDs. His spokesperson said that even though he might not have a PhD he does in fact have two MBAs.

    In the UAE the greatest danger of the practice of buying degrees is in the fields of construction and medicine. A few years ago I was looking to hire a project engineer for a construction project and the gentleman I interviewed seemed to be very capable and possessed the right qualifications. I was surprised that he was willing to leave a reputable firm to work on a relatively small project. I called his firm one day and asked for the engineering department in that construction firm. I was told that although a person with that name worked in the firm, this gentleman wasn't a project engineer at all but had a much more junior position. I thought to myself how potentially dangerous it would have been had we hired him to oversee a project for which he wasn't qualified.

    Buying degrees can be very lucrative but very dangerous in the medical industry. Many people in the Gulf succumb to what amounts to witchcraft and sorcery but feel comforted in being told that these sorcerers are qualified doctors who can cure them from a disease or can save a loved one. Many victims of these tricks are too shy to admit that they have been paying for ineffective medicine. They choose silence over unwanted publicity. So sadly, in the UAE this practice can still pay.

    Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi is a non resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government




  • The "diploma mills" keep on churning to everyone's loss, Muhammad Ayish, United Arab Emirates, The National, June 16, 2009.


    In the past few years many young people aspiring to obtain a university degree have been duped by glamorous and flashy web-based educational advertisements. After taking the bait, they find themselves entangled in legal, professional and ethical dilemmas arising from an affiliation with a bogus institution of higher education, better known as a "diploma mill."

    Such organisations award academic degrees and diplomas for substandard or no academic work at all. Their "degrees" are awarded without any official educational accreditation.

    Last week, the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research issued a statement warning prospective undergraduate and graduate students looking into academic study abroad against falling victim to such fraudulent practices.

    Like money laundering and drug trafficking, the multimillion industry in fake diplomas is a global challenge that has dire consequences for local communities. As a global challenge, the diploma mill fraud can only be combated through building up a culture of achievement and excellence not only within local educational systems, but within the community at large.

    For those of us who were old enough to experience higher education in the 1970s, bogus universities were rarely an issue. The rise of the internet with its capacity to reach a global audience and to present something virtual – or fraudulent – as real has made these practices viable. In cyberspace, I have come across scores of counterfeit diploma websites that instantly "award" a wide variety of degrees for fees ranging from $300 to $5,000 without the need to attend any programme of study.

    In the Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees by Distance Learning, John and Mariah Bear report that there are more than 700 diploma mills that generate more than $500 million annually. In many situations, those degrees are often awarded based on vaguely construed "life experience", suggesting, for example, that a person with 25 years of experience in field crop production should receive a doctoral degree in agricultural studies.

    I am dismayed to learn that as much as the United States prides itself on having the finest educational institutions in the world, it is perceived by others to be a haven for a large number of bogus schools and universities. In the 1980s, Operation DipScam, an FBI-led investigative force, led to the closing of many diploma mills across the United States. Yet, the lack of further action by law enforcement agencies, uneven state laws and the difficulty with policing the internet have militated against making any substantive progress.

    Four years ago, the US Department of Education launched to combat the spread of fraudulent degrees. A number of states have passed bills making degree awarding contingent on accreditation from certified bodies. But the root of the problem derives from the fact that the United States does not have a federal law that would unambiguously prohibit these practices, and the term "university" is not legally protected or defined.

    During my 25-year academic experience in different Arab countries, I remember having had only one or two first-hand experiences with fake degree holders. The bleak side of the story is not just about the potential devastation of fake degrees on a person's reputation, but the irreparable damage they cause to the integrity of their profession.

    The story of Marion Kolitwenzew in North Carolina illustrates additional risks. She learnt that her daughter was a diabetic and took her to a specialist for care. According to media reports, the physician seemed impressive, with an office full of medical supplies and a slew of medical degrees on the wall. His advice to her was to take her daughter off insulin. The immediate result was the death of an eight-year-old girl. His degrees were bogus and he had no expertise.

    While fingers have often been pointed at those who run the bogus operations that award degrees, I also believe that the responsibility to limit their influence must be shared by the media, by the law enforcement agencies that too often show leniency towards those perpetuating these frauds, and by the people who intentionally purchase these degrees.

    Because of the current financial crisis, there may be a surge in this type of fraud that preys on people's aspirations and their desperation.

    At its core, however, the issue is ethical. To combat this problem, we need a public culture that encourages merit-based promotion and rewards achievement demonstrated through hard work.


  • Former Students Sue Defunct Warren National U., Thomas Bartlett, Washington, D.C. The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 7, 2009.


    More than 60 former students are suing the now-defunct Warren National University, saying it misled them about its accreditation status.

    Warren National — better known under its previous name, Kennedy Western — went belly up in March after a failed accreditation bid. For years it had been one of the most prominent unaccredited distance-education institutions in the country.

    The 67 students who are suing Warren National say the university told them that it would be accredited soon or that accreditation didn't matter, according to the Associated Press.

    In 2008 information on Warren National's Web site under the heading "Licensure and Regulatory Compliance" stated that the university was accepted by "business, professional, and academic communities." It also stated that the university was licensed by the state of Wyoming. That license was revoked this year, after the university failed to achieve accreditation.


  • Jury finds Pantex contractor guilty: Man faces $8 million in fines , Sean Thomas, Amarillo, Texas Amarillo Globe-News &, May 28, 2009.


    A contractor was convicted Thursday on a host of federal violations involving his work with the Pantex Nuclear Facility.

    Roy David Williams, 57, was found guilty of 29 separate counts, including wire fraud and false claims regarding contracts with the plant near Amarillo. He appeared in U.S. District Court in Amarillo before Judge Mary Lou Robinson.

    A jury found Williams defrauded the government of nearly $170,000 by submitting falsified timecards and expense claims for contract work.

    Williams engaged in unauthorized bid preparations and other management activities for his technical services company, WAATTS Inc., while he was at Pantex and then billed the plant for those hours.

    As part of the scheme, Williams listed a business address in Tennessee as his business address, but Williams did little or no business in Tennessee. Williams also listed Oak Ridge, Tenn., as the permanent mailing address on his Pantex badging documents, but he and his family have lived in the Amarillo area since 1992.

    Federal court records show Williams submitted 28 false or counterfeit billings to the plant from August 2007 to June 2008.

    He was convicted on one count of wire fraud, 11 counts of contractors bonds, bids and public records, 16 counts of false, fictitious or fraudulent claims and one count of theft of public money.

    Williams faces about 200 years in prison and $8 million in fines. He remains free on bond until sentencing, which has not been scheduled

    During his trial, Williams insisted that he be addressed as "Dr. Williams." His "PhD" in Nuclear Engineering, which apparently played a role in his success at bidding for a Pantex contract, was issued by the "Richmonds University" diploma mill. Williams provided his Richmonds documents to investigators to substantiate his claim of a PhD.

    Here is the text of the U.S. Department of Justice press release announcing Williams' indictment.


    TUESDAY, APRIL 21, 2009
    PHONE: (214)659-8600
    FAX: (214) 767-2898


    AMARILLO, Texas — A federal grand jury in Amarillo returned an indictment today charging Roy David Williams, 57, of Amarillo and Lake Tanglewood, Texas, with various offenses related to his defrauding Pantex from August 2007 through June 2008, announced acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks of the Northern District of Texas. The 29-count federal indictment charges Williams with one count of wire fraud, 11 counts of contractors bonds, bids and public records, 16 counts of false, fictitious or fraudulent claims and one count of theft of public money. Williams is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Clinton E. Averitte on Thursday, April 30, 2009, at 9:30 a.m. for his initial appearance

    The Pantex Nuclear Facility is a nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. Pantex is managed and operated by Babcock and Wilcox (B&W Pantex) for the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration. B&W Pantex routinely employs subcontractors to perform services for Pantex.

    Roy David Williams owned and operated WAATTS, Inc., from an office at the Amarillo National Bank Plaza II in downtown Amarillo. On August 28, 2007, B&W Pantex and WAATTS, entered into a contract for WAATTS to provide technical services to B&W Pantex. WAATTS' staff included Williams, his wife and daughter, and several other individuals.

    As part of his scheme to defraud Pantex, Williams listed a business address in Lenoir City, Tennessee, for WAATTTS, however that business address was actually the residence of an acquaintance of Williams; Williams did little to no business in Tennessee. Williams also listed an address in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as his permanent mailing address on his Pantex security badging documents, however, he and his family have lived in the Amarillo area since 1992 and he has no relatives or acquaintances who reside at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, address he provided to Pantex. Williams even provided Pantex a Leonard, Texas, (approximately 350 miles from Amarillo) address for one of his employees, however, that employee has resided in Amarillo since 2004.

    Additionally, as part of his scheme to defraud Pantex, Williams engaged in unauthorized future bid preparations and other WAATS management activities, while he was at the Pantex plant and off site, and billed Pantex for those unauthorized hours. Williams submitted payment requests for hours he and his employees worked at the Pantex plant, when Williams knew that neither he nor his employees were at Pantex during those hours he billed. Williams also inflated the hours he and his employees worked, claimed per diem expenses he was not entitled to, and claimed per diem expenses for an employee that he was not entitled to claim.

    The indictment alleges that Williams requested that Pantex send wire transfers to his bank account that he maintained in Tennessee and then requested the bank send corresponding wire transfers from the Tennessee bank to a bank account he maintained in Amarillo, all designed to 1) conceal the fact that he resided and did business exclusively in Texas, and 2) to claim fraudulent per diem payments. Williams submitted false, forged, altered, and counterfeited time cards to Pantex in support of service invoices that included hours not worked and hours spent on non-contract work.

    According the indictment, Williams fraudulently received approximately $169,858 of public money from Pantex.

    An indictment is an accusation by a federal grand jury and a defendant is entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty. Upon conviction, however, the wire fraud count carries a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each of the contractors bonds, bids and public records and public money counts each carries a maximum statutory sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each of the false claims counts carries a maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    The case is being investigated by the Department of Energy - Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christy Drake of the Amarillo, Texas, U.S. Attorney's Office is prosecuting.


  • Sham colleges open doors to Pakistani terror suspects, Andrew Norfolk , London, Times Online, May 21, 2009.


    Thousands of young Pakistanis exploited a hole in Britain's immigration defences to enrol as students at a network of sham colleges, The Times can reveal.

    The gateway, opened by fraudsters who have earned millions from the scam, has allowed in hundreds of men from a region of Pakistan that is the militant heartland of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taleban.

    Eight of the terror suspects arrested last month in Manchester and Liverpool were on the books of one college.It had three small classrooms and three teachers for the 1,797 students on its books. Another college claimed to have 150 students but secretly enrolled 1,178 and offered places to a further 1,575 overseas applicants, 906 of them in Pakistan.

    The investigation has also revealed:

    • those running the scam charged at least £1,000 for admission places and fake diplomas. They created their own university to issue bogus degrees;

    • they also charged £2,500 for false attendance records, diplomas and degrees that were used to extend the students' stay in Britain;

    • one wealthy associate, Mir Ahmad, linked to two murders in Pakistan, was arrested yesterday after The Times gave the Home Office a dossier implicating two of the colleges.

    The Times has uncovered close ties between 11 colleges in London, Manchester and Bradford, all formed in the past five years and controlled by three young Pakistani businessmen.

    Each of the three men entered the country on a student visa. One has fled to Pakistan after earning an estimated £6 million from the scam. Fayaz Ali Khan and another man are in the UK.

    All but two of the ten students arrested last month over an alleged al-Qaeda bomb plot were enrolled over an 11-month period at Manchester College of Professional Studies. Two Liverpool universities admitted last night that they had given places to four of them, who had used a diploma from the college when they applied.

    The massive fraud has fuelled a surge in student arrivals from Pakistan, which the Prime Minister has identified as the birthplace of two thirds of terrorist plots in the UK.Between 2002 and 2007, the number of Pakistani nationals with permission to enter or remain in the UK as students jumped from 7,975 to 26,935.

    Manchester College of Professional Studies, set up in 2006, sold places to more than 1,000 students, including hundreds of men from North West Frontier Province, where a battle is raging between Taleban fighters and the Pakistani Army. Others came from mountainous tribal areas near the Afghan border, described by President Obama as "the most dangerous place in the world."

    The college was removed from an official government register of education providers last summer but those who ran it have set up other colleges.

    Tougher rules on the admission of international students, introduced last month by the UK Border Agency, aim to weed out bogus colleges and close the immigration loophole. The Times has evidence, however, that those involved in some abuses are already seeking to exploit the new system.

    Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, said last night: "The information provided by The Times has been passed on to the UK Border Agency, which is investigating."


  • Our View: Fake academic credentials not to be taken lightly, The Spokesman-Review editors, Spokane, Washington, Spokesman-Review, May 21, 2009.


    It has been more than a year since the last of eight defendants pleaded guilty in a federal fraud case spawned by a Spokane diploma mill. But the legal gears grind on, as they should.

    Some 10,000 people worldwide paid millions of dollars for meaningless college and high school diplomas in a scheme masterminded by a 58-year-old high school dropout. Using a variety of aliases, Dixie Randock dreamed up several phony universities and operated them out of offices in Spokane and Kootenai counties. Randock and seven accomplices, including her husband, were prosecuted and sentenced.

    Meanwhile, however, thousands of bogus diploma holders around the globe continue to profit from the fraud that gained them jobs and promotions, many at taxpayer expense.

    Among those who acquired bogus degrees, and in some cases counterfeit diplomas from legitimate colleges and universities, were employees in such federal agencies as the CIA, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and NASA – even the White House staff.

    In February 2008, a former deputy U.S. marshal in Spokane, David F. Brodhagen, pleaded guilty to lying on a federal job promotion form because he used a sham degree to qualify him for a pay raise.

    Now we learn that the Army is matching the list of the Randocks' customers against its personnel records. About two dozen Army, National Guard and Army Reserve members are facing disciplinary action over invalid academic credentials used to advance their careers. Military officials say it's a laborious process, but a thorough investigation is in order, and not just to prevent lazy soldiers from pulling a fast one. There are at least three reasons it's in the public interest for the military and other agencies to continue the search for opportunists who engaged in the masquerade.

    •It's theft of public funds.

    •Putting unqualified people in sensitive jobs may endanger public safety.

    •Since a degree makes it easier for a foreigner to enter the United States, it could be a tool for terrorism.

    With tuition levels soaring, diploma mills will be as tempting as ever. But by tracking down and dealing with service members who collected undeserved benefits, the Army lets unscrupulous and lazy people know that the shortcut isn't worth the risk, which in turn makes the scheme less attractive to potential con artists.

    In the meantime, the military, the government and our public school systems need to scour their records and tighten their personnel practices against fraudulent academic credentials.


  • The doctor is in -- not; three accused of phony degrees, Scott Sunde, Seattle Washington Post-Intelligencer, May 28, 2009.


    The State Health Department has accused a social worker and two counselors of using phony degrees from diploma mills. All are accused of buying doctorates.

    State regulators accuse Michael Strub, a licensed social workers, with buying a doctor of philosophy in psychology degree diploma and transcript in March 2004. They came from Hamilton University, which the Health Department calls an online diploma mill.

    He is accused of misrepresenting his education and training to clients and insurance companies. He worked at Cornerstone Counseling Services in Puyallup.

    David Larsen, a registered counselor and chemical dependency professional, is accused of buying a doctor of psychology degree in October 2002. The Health Department said he got it from another online diploma mill, St. Regis University. He was known as "Dr. Larsen," the Health Department said.

    He is accused of misrepresenting his eduction and training on a resume he submitted for a counselor job.

    He worked at Crossroads Treatment Center in Tacoma and CiviGenics of Tacoma.

    He has since retired, according to the Health Department.

    Taylor Danard, a registered counselor, bought a doctor of philosophy in psychology degree from St. Regis University in January 2003, the Health Department said. She is accused of misrepresenting herself as a Ph.D. and providing false information to a Health Department investigator.

    Investigators also looked into four other providers who got credentials from diploma mills, but they didn't use the degrees in their practices or in the application to get a state license.

    She worked at the Madison Park Counseling Center in Seattle.

    All three health providers have 20 days to respond to the accusations.


  • Breach of Trust Investigation: Congressman Vows to Take Action; U.S. Army launches educational campaign regarding diploma mills, Wendy Halloran, Huntsville, Alabama WHNT-TV news, May 21, 2009.


    HUNTSVILLE, AL - A WHNT NEWS 19 Investigation into fake diplomas has exposed phony college degrees on resumes of members of the military and powerful people in missile defense.

    The bombshell is sending shockwaves through Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, and has touched a nerve across the Tennessee Valley.

    WHNT NEWS 19 viewers have responded passionately by posting comments on our website and sending dozens of emails.

    One viewer wrote:

    "It's all about integrity. Anyone who would try to pass off a fake degree is capable of anything. What has this person not done? I wouldn't want him in charge of an outhouse if he passed off a fake degree as a legitimate degree."

    Another praised our reports, writing:

    "Great work!!! Now, move in for the kill. This has gone on long enough. Many people already knew this and did nothing."

    But, some of you also took direct aim at our investigative reports.

    "Your idea of 'finding out the truth' is something to be embarrassed of, not proud."

    Another viewer writes:

    "I think this is a witch hunt. You should stop because you are going to hurt these people's lives and make it to where they can't get a job in this city again."

    Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran broke the story and continues to uncover new information.

    We exposed soldiers, a high-ranking civilian on the Army Aviation and Missile Command and a defense contractor. They all have one thing in common. It's not their military background. They bought bogus degrees. We exposed their secret and now it's making national headlines.

    Newspaper after newspaper around the country printed the story. The Associated Press picked it up. It went worldwide with the web, including

    What's the big deal, you ask?

    Secrets, lies, security clearance and access to classified information… it's a recipe for disaster that presents a threat to national security and defrauds you, the taxpayer.

    Brigadier General David Grange told Wendy Halloran, "Trying to get information from government employees by foreign agents is a reality that we have to understand and face."

    Our 'Taking Action' investigation uncovered a key, essential leader on Redstone Arsenal at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command with a fake college degree.

    AMCOM's Director of Readiness, Chris Oleyte, a powerful position with a lot of responsibility, and now there are calls for his resignation.

    Brigadier General David Grange told Halloran, "The honorable thing to do is to step down be removed from that command."

    We exposed a defense contractor, James Samuelson, who when confronted, admitted the degrees were phony and practically apologized.

    When confronted Samuelson said, "Sometimes all of us do things that are not real bright."

    Our fake diploma investigation, 'Breach of Trust' triggered an Army probe after revealing soldiers in the Army, National Guard and Army Reserve.

    Now the soldiers we exposed may face discipline because they bought fake degrees and counterfeit transcripts. What's worse? They used them to secure promotions. Instead of doing the hard right, they did the easy wrong.

    Sergeant Major Tom Gills told Halloran, "They've had years and years to learn and understand what's right and what's wrong. And, to do something so heinous or egregious as to buy a degree when the Army is willing to pay for it for you pay for your tuition assistance so that you can go actually get the education is just a terrible thing."

    Sergeant Major Tom Gills is the Chief of enlisted promotions at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command. He said, "From the Army's point of view, the Human Resources Command's point of view, we're very happy that you brought it to our attention because we want all of our soldiers to live and operate within those Army ethics and values that they are taught. And, you bringing this information to us allows us to respond to it to correct that action and to insure that we educate all of our HR professionals and their commanders to be on the lookout for it."

    Many of the soldiers we exposed have decorated backgrounds - medals, awards, commendations. It begs the question, "why?"

    Wendy asked, "What would prompt a soldier to buy a degree? Is it competitiveness? Why do you think they would take the easy route?" Gills said, "Well, I think it's competitiveness. But, it's also misinformation." He continued, "I travel quite a bit around the Army to teach the soldiers about what they need to do to get promoted. And, I let them know that the evaluation report they get each year is the single most important thing for getting a promotion in the senior ranks. Unfortunately, this myth that getting a diploma equals getting a promotion is not true, yet it's still some, obviously, believed in some quarters."

    For a promotion a soldier is rated in five broad categories, including competence, physical fitness, leadership, training, responsibility and accountability. There are 15 total areas where they get points. Higher education is only a fraction of the criteria.

    Gills said, "Getting a degree is critically important. I don't want to misstate that it's critically important." He continued, "Education is one of our biggest investments we have in our soldiers, along with military training because that education empowers them with an academic capacity that allows commanders to delegate more authority to them larger missions because they have a better understanding of the world around them."

    The Army says it's harder than the armchair naysayer might think to ferret out a fake. Gills said, "Every time we squash one type of institution, they're going to pop up with a different name attempting to lure soldiers to do the wrong thing."

    Among the worst is Saint Regis University, a diploma mill operated out of Spokane, Washington.

    It was a operation masterminded by Dixie and Steven Randock. A phony degree and diploma-granting racket that sold counterfeit credentials based on life experience to 9,612 buyers around the world. No coursework, no classes. Just cash! The ringleaders raked in millions. Then the Feds shut them down and prosecutors sent the Randocks to prison.

    Unfortunately, they're not the only ones cranking out counterfeit credentials. Halloran asked, "Do you think diploma mills, in general, are becoming an even bigger problem in this country?" of Judith Eaton, the President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, based in Washington, D.C.

    "The press for credentials at the higher education level is so great. It is tied to so many jobs," said Eaton. "It is such an advantage to have a higher education credential in seeking employment and getting ahead, that 'yes,' there are a number of people who will say, 'Well I can do this an easier way than going to school for four years. I can go online and buy a degree.' And, they'll do it."

    Eaton said, "You don't get a legitimate master's degree in two months. You don't get a legitimate doctorate by paying $2,500."

    Halloran asked, "Is enough being done by lawmakers?" Eaton replied, "No." She continued, "There are negative consequences associated with having and using a fraudulent degree. People lose their jobs. People don't get promoted. People may be fired. But, right now the negative consequences are minimal. And, we need to pay more attention to it."

    Ten states have passed laws making the use of a fake credential a crime and there are restrictions in Michigan and Indiana. Alabama has no laws on the books.

    "I think that diploma mills are a very, very serious problem," said Congressman Tim Bishop. Bishop is a Democrat from New York. Halloran spoke with him from Capitol Hill.

    "If a bogus credential is being used to acquire a particular position, whether it be an entry level position or promotion and taxpayer dollars are being used to fund that position or fund the promotion, that points once again to the fact that action must be taken," Rep. Bishop said.

    Bishop sits on the House Education and Labor Committee. In that role, he's made modest gains in the effort to crackdown on counterfeit degrees. Bishop co-sponsored legislation that became law last year and for the first time, provided a federal definition of a diploma mill. But, by his own admission, that's not enough.

    Bishop said, "I think that this diploma mill problem has grown more pronounced as a result of emerging technology. And, now it is the responsibility of the government to deal with a much more pronounced problem than had once been the case."

    So, we made him go on record with a promise to get results. Halloran asked, "I just want to hear your commitment to getting a federal law passed that makes this a crime." Bishop replied, "I can commit to you that I will re-submit the legislation that Congresswoman McCollum and I offered now about a year and half ago and I will work as hard as I possibly can to see to it that it becomes law."

    Congressman Bishop said he's interested in meeting with Army leaders to discuss the issue. The Army is taking this matter very seriously. Lieutenant Colonel Richard McNorton is the spokesperson for the Army's Human Resources Command. He said if Army leaders or soldiers who are in leadership positions purchase fake degrees, it's a career ender.

    Now that we've brought this to the attention of the Army, it's in the process of identifying soldiers who conducted business with diploma mills. They're also warning soldiers about predatory diploma mills and steering them to legitimate colleges.

    The issues at Redstone Arsenal are separate from the enlisted soldiers because it involves Department of the Army civilians. We've made the senior command at Redstone Arsenal aware of this problem. And, we've made them aware of additional employees who may have purchased fake degrees.

    We requested an on camera interview with AMCOM Commander Major General Jim Myles. He declined our request and instead issued a statement which stated:

    "An investigation is currently working to determine the truth about all the circumstances surrounding these allegations. When that effort is complete, we will be able to exactly determine any future action." -Maj. Gen. Jim Myles

    We're hopeful Major General Jim Myles will respond to us.


  • U.S. Army eyeing fake diplomas: Spokane-based mill may have played role in promotions, Jim Camden, Spokane, Washington, Spokesman-Review, May 16, 2009.


    The U.S. Army is investigating soldiers who bought degrees from an illegal diploma mill that was based in Spokane and resulted in prison time for its operators.

    It's also warning soldiers to be wary of phony diploma schemes when they sign up for education and tuition assistance.

    The Army's Human Resources Command is using a list of customers of the diploma mill operated by Dixie and Steve Randock obtained and posted online last summer by The Spokesman-Review.

    "We're doing an inquiry into all of our records," Lt. Col. Richard McNorton, public affairs officer for the Human Resources Command headquarters in Alexandria, Va., said Friday. "It's a very laborious process."

    So far, the investigation has turned up about 25 soldiers in the Army, National Guard or Army Reserve who face discipline because they bought fake degrees, and in some cases fake transcripts, and used them to secure promotions, McNorton said. Others have been found who have fake degrees in their files but have since retired.

    Retirees might face some administrative action, although the Army's authority is limited after a person retires, he said.

    The investigation was triggered by a series of stories by a Huntsville, Ala., television station about diploma mill customers who worked at a local military base and weapons arsenal. Reporter Wendy Halloran of station WHNT asked the Human Resources Command about some Huntsville soldiers, and the office opened an investigation using the customer database compiled by the U.S. Justice Department in the case against the Randocks, McNorton said.

    They also used The Spokesman-Review's online version of the database, which lists customers alphabetically and by some e-mail addresses, including military e-mail addresses that end in ."mil." But those were the "low-hanging fruit," McNorton said, and the Human Resources Command quickly moved on to the full list.

    The Army's investigation turned up one soldier who purchased eight degrees or certificates from the Randocks. Thurman Towry, a former guardsman and Army Reserve officer who submitted degrees to obtain promotions, faced administrative action short of a court-martial and opted to retire, McNorton said.

    "Obviously, with something like this, your career is completely over," he said.

    The Army now is concentrating on anyone who obtained a degree from one of several fake institutions, including St. Regis University, which the Randocks created. That fake school prompted a civil suit against the Randocks when Regis University, a Jesuit-run institution in Denver, sued them for damaging the real school's reputation.

    Regis University is accredited by the Army and is listed in a "drop down box" on a form that education officers fill out when a soldier is reporting a degree. Some soldiers who bought St. Regis degrees may have told the education officer that it was the same school as Regis and the form was filled out accordingly, McNorton said.

    A college degree is not a requirement for promotion within the enlisted ranks, but it can be the factor that leads to advancements when two soldiers are equal in all other categories. It is a requirement for promotion in the officer ranks.

    Each case will be investigated by the soldier's commanding unit to see what action is warranted. Some soldiers may have purchased a degree without completing any course work and submitted it to gain a promotion, knowing it was fake, McNorton said. Others may have supplied the diploma mill with transcripts from several other schools, along with a work history, and legitimately thought they were earning a degree. "Not everybody is corrupt. Some may have just been dumb," he said.

    The Human Resources Command is also concerned about soldiers, and the taxpayers, being swindled by diploma mills. The military pays soldiers to get more education but requires the education to be from accredited schools – or the costs won't be reimbursed.

    They could lose hundreds of dollars of their own money, McNorton said.

    This week, the Army posted a "buyer beware" admonition about diploma mills on the Web site that helps soldiers sign up for education and tuition assistance. It advises soldiers to make sure a school is accredited and warns about punishment for entering a fraudulent degrees into personnel records.

    "Don't get caught with a 'bogus degree,' " advises Thursday's Tip of the Day from the Army's education Web site.




  • Breach of Trust: Army Responds To Soldiers Buying Fake Diplomas, Wendy Halloran, Huntsville, Alabama WHNT-TV news, May 12, 2009.


    A follow-up to a Taking Action Investigation we brought you last October. At that time, we exposed three people who had bought fake diplomas.

    Following that report, several people emailed WHNT NEWS 19 who said we only scratched the surface. One viewer claimed buying fake degrees is condoned and rewarded at the highest levels on Redstone Arsenal.

    We dug deeper, and indeed, found more deception. This investigation has captured the attention of top leaders from Huntsville to Washington, D.C.

    Our investigation reveals the use of counterfeit credentials has infiltrated all levels of the military and missile defense, the core of Huntsville's community. This breach of trust is costing you, the taxpayer, and it could put our nation's security at risk.

    This week on WHNT NEWS 19 at 10:00, we'll expose soldiers, civilians and even defense contractors who possess fake degrees.

    Our investigation in October 2008 started with retired Master Sergeant Albert Finley, Jr.

    "I only inquired, no, I never bought nothing," said Finley.

    Finley's military record testifies to a patriotic man, willing to put himself in harm's way for his country. His distinguished record shows he's done everything to be all he can be, from earning the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Global War On Terrorism Service Medal.

    These campaign medals, decorations and awards speak volumes. Among the honor, there's another accolade Finley takes credit for: a master's degree in Sociology with a minor in Counseling from Saint Regis University.

    His diploma looks official. His transcripts reflect he was an almost straight-A student. But there's one problem, it's all a lie.

    The lie was good enough to fool the U.S. Army, until we brought it to their attention. Our investigation essentially shows when soldiers can't be all they can be, they buy it.

    Finley told WHNT NEWS 19 he only inquired about buying a fake degree. We traveled to the nation's capitol for answers. The U.S. Army says that's not the case.

    "Did Master Sergeant Albert Finley Junior, Retired, turn over a fake degree to the United States Army?" we asked of Sergeant Major Tom Gills.

    "He did," said SGM Gills. "We've verified that and I have a copy of it right here for you."

    SGM Gills is the Chief of Enlisted Promotions for the U.S. Army. The office is headquartered at the Army's Human Resources Command in northern Virginia.

    The fake degree from now-defunct Saint Regis University cost Finley $731. It's one factor in his promotion from Sgt. First Class to Master Sergeant. The promotion meant a bump in pay for him. You've been footing the bill.

    "You have a master's degree through Troy University out of Dothan, Alabama, so you know what it's like get the higher education -- the blood sweat and tears -- when you heard of Finley's case what ran across your mind? What entered your mind?" we asked SGM Gills.

    "In a word, disgust," said SGM Gills.

    "When I think of the hard work, and not just for myself, setting an example for our young soldiers to see what right looks like and to spend those nights and the weekends missing family events and all the other things that all of us do to achieve the degree had to go through, it's not easy of course," said SGM Gills.

    "It's very worthwhile, so as you work to make that example for your subordinates and your peers hoping to inspire them, to have someone who would go and do something like this, it sickens me," he added.

    "It just adds insult to injury that a senior NCO would take that, that route to go outside of what the Army authorizes as an accredited institution and pay money out of their own pocket again when the Army will pay for their tuition and books 100% to go and actually get the education," SGM Gills added.

    The Army's promotions board approved it. However, Master Sergeant Albert Finley's far-from-genuine degree isn't the only fake that slipped through the cracks of the Army's screening process. There are a battalion of others who flew under the radar.

    WHNT NEWS 19's Taking Action Investigation has uncovered Major Eliza Watson of Birmingham bought a fake bachelor's degree in Business.

    The comment section on the Saint Regis University buyer's list reveals Major Watson took measures to make sure her secret stayed a secret.

    Her post said "I am Captain in the Army Reserves and I need a degree to retain my commission; no transaction on e-mail."

    Major Thurman Towry of Homewood also engaged in a covert operation, purchasing a total of eight degrees and certificates, including a bachelor's in Business Management, a master's in Management and a PhD in International Management Strategy.

    Towry turn all three degrees over to the Army, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Taxpayers paid for his salary raise.

    WHNT NEWS 19 has uncovered more than 200 soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and government contractors around the world who bought fake degrees.

    "Each case, it is significant, it is egregious and it just smacks right at those core values that we live by," said SGM Gills.

    The group who bought fake diplomas includes dozens fighting right now on the front lines. They submitted these degrees into their official military file for consideration for promotion.

    "When you're in combat, you've got to trust that man on the right, that woman on the left and certainly that leader who's behind you or in front of you telling you this is the action we're gonna take, and as soon as you give that integrity away by doing something like this, you have now chipped away at a trust factor," said SGM Gills. "How many senior commanders can trust you again or how subordinates can trust you?"

    With the Army's strict codes and strict conduct, how does this happen?

    "One would never expect that a seasoned leader would do something like this, so you could see how they could slip through the cracks," said SGM Gills.

    "There are some civilians and people who are critical of the Army, saying that the Human Resources Command doesn't do enough to stop these bogus degrees from slipping through the cracks. What would you say to people who feel that way?" WHNT NEWS 19 asked Gills.

    "Now that this command is aware of it, at this time were going to educate the Human Resources Specialists throughout the Army," said SGM Gills. "We're going to send a message out to the commanders within the Army that same message."

    We also spoke with retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange about our investigation.

    "I think most of these cases are people getting these credentials in order to obtain a job a higher pay scale," said Grange.

    Grange has three silver stars, two purple hearts and one real master's degree in public service from Western Kentucky University.

    He serves as the military analyst for CBS and CNN, and spoke with WHNT NEWS 19 via satellite from Chicago.

    "Does it concern you, or how concerned are you with fake academic credentials and people defrauding the United States Government?" we asked him.

    "Because they're a government person, they belong to the public, in other words that this is an issue I think that the military will crack down on this immediately and weed out anyone that does have bogus credentials," said Grange. "It's not tolerated. I'm sure those that did it wittingly will be punished."

    Since the start of WHNT NEWS 19's Taking Action Investigation, we have turned over 12 names of military members in Alabama who bought fake degrees from bona fide diploma mills.

    The U.S. Army says it is taking the matter very seriously, conducting a review of all of their records to see if they turned over their fake degrees as part of the promotions process.

    One is too many," said SGM Gills. "And each and every one we're going to identify we're going to turn it over to their commanders for appropriate action."

    Gills also thanked us for the investigation.

    "I just want to say God bless you for bringing this to the Army's attention, for me, at least, to find out about this at this scope or level so that we can take the action," said SGM Gills. "We couldn't do it if you hadn't have brought it to us, so that's the starting point of fixing any problem is knowing you have one."

    The punishment for turning over a fake degree ranges from a general officer letter of reprimand, up to an Article 15, which is a non-judicial punishment that allows a commander to take rank, forfeiture of pay, restrict a soldier's activities to the barracks, all the way to a court martial.

    If a soldier is court martialed, it becomes a matter of public record. However, because Retired Master Sergeant Albert Finley, Jr. was not court martialed, we'll never know what punishment he was given.

    Our Taking Action Investigation is getting more results, too.

    The U.S. Army is now auditing all of its records. It is revamping its Human Resource Command to better detect fake credentials, and it is also encouraging those who purchased fake degrees to step forward.

    Those who don't come clean could face a court martial.

    The Army is also launching an educational campaign that will be broadcast over military radio and television, on web sites, and in newspapers and other print publications.


  • Breach of Trust: Fake Diplomas Found at U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command. WHNT NEWS 19's Investigation reveals AMCOM's Director of Readiness purchased bogus diploma , Wendy Halloran, Huntsville, Alabama WHNT-TV news, May 13, 2009.


    HUNTSVILLE, AL - It's graduation season all across the country. Thousands of students spent years to get their bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.

    However, many people have bought phony diplomas. In Part 1 of our Taking Action Investigation, WHNT NEWS 19 showed you how fake degrees have infiltrated the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army.

    Now, our investigation reveals this breach of trust goes all the way to the top civilian ranks at Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal.

    The fake degree is in the hand of a key essential leader at the U.S. Army's Aviation and Missile Command, AMCOM. The bogus diplomas are against policy, put a person's integrity in question, and make them a potential target for blackmail.

    As Director of Readiness for the Army's Aviation and Missile Command, Chris Oleyte carries the weight of America's missile defense readiness on his shoulders. He's also carrying other baggage.

    WHNT NEWS 19's Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran confronted him. "Did you buy a degree from that diploma mill?" we asked.

    "Uh, nothing to talk about," Oleyte replied.

    Oleyte has top secret clearance, and access to classified information about missile defense. He would probably rather you not know about this secret he's hidden.

    "It's on your bio," we say. "Yeah," he replies. "So, I don't even understand why you're talking to me about it," Oleyte said.

    Did the system promote him, despite his bogus degree? Does the Department of the Army care that he has a fake credential?

    "You have an obligation to talk to us," we say. "No, I don't, you're on my property," Oleyte replies.

    Oleyte's secret potentially compromises the integrity of AMCOM and certainly defrauds you, the taxpayer.

    "Taxpayers pay your salary," WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran says. "You don't want to talk about a degree from a degree mill? You're a key essential leader, and that's from a diploma mill."

    "I don't appreciate [this]," Oleyte says. "Put the camera down. Please, please the camera."

    In 2001, Olyete's impressive government resume boasted a Bachelor's degree in Human Resource Management from Trinity College and University out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

    "To be fair, in a description of Trinity College and University, it's something that lives in a metal box 'that big' that you could use to store cat food basically in, it's completely fake," said George Gollin, an expert on diploma mills. More from him shortly.

    Oleyte's resume lists that he got that bachelor's degree in 2001. The next year, he got a big promotion, to Senior Command Representative in Korea... a promotion that moved him up from a GS 13 to a GS 14, and likely afforded him a sizeable increase in salary.

    Oleyte had the authority over all AMCOM issues, personnel and equipment in that country and reported directly to the AMCOM commanding general in Korea.

    By the government's standards, it's a very important position. That began Oleyte's rise through the chain of command. Two years later, he was reassigned to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the Deputy Director of Readiness. He was later promoted to Director of Readiness.

    WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran further confronted Oleyte about his bogus degree and the position he holds.

    "I don't list that as a degree," Oleyte said.

    "But you did," we replied.

    "It's way back when," he said.

    "Yes, but it's still from a diploma mill," said Halloran.

    The promotions process in the U.S. government is very stringent. A complex matrix is used to score applicants. Three screeners judge the applicants on eight criteria. Applicants earn points for everything from aviation or missile systems experience to supervisory experience and even higher education degrees.

    When Olyete applied for that promotion in Korea, his initial score was 263. A Freedom of Information Act request shows how 6 points were shaved off from the scoring for that bogus bachelor's degree and his total score corrected. It also shows how Olyete fared against 34 other candidates for the Senior Command Representative position. Despite the reduction, his point total still ranked him third on the list and he still retained the promotion. Without a doubt, someone higher up knew about the bogus degree. Chris Olyete's only 4-year degree is the phony one he possesses from Trinity College and University.

    The U.S. Army's policy clearly states an employee who intentionally lists bogus educational credentials on a resume or other form of application for merit promotion calls his trustworthiness and integrity into question. It goes on to say when the employee's current supervisors become aware, he or she will notify the AMCOM Security Intelligence Directorate and it will determine what if anything should be done regarding the employee's clearance and access to classified information.

    It's all about trust. To WHNT NEWS 19's knowledge, Olyete's bosses swept it under the rug. Nothing was ever done about it.

    How could we know? The U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal has not answered many of our questions. At first, request after request for an interview was met with excuse after excuse.

    But, in the waning hours before we went to air with this story, Redstone Public Affairs Specialist Dan O'Boyle was authorized to answer only a few questions we submitted in advance.

    "Does AMCOM Commander General Jim Myles know about Chris Oleyte's fake degree from Trinity College and University?" we asked O'Boyle.

    "We are aware of the allegations and we have convened a Commander's inquiry now, that's a group of senior key leaders who are looking at the facts surrounding these allegations and are charged with the responsibility to determine the truth and then come up with a course of action based upon the findings that come out of the inquiry board," said O'Boyle.

    "On a government resume, he lists that degree. Are you aware of that?" WHNT NEWS 19 asked.

    "We are conducting this inquiry and we'll make a course of action based upon the facts that come out as a result of our findings," said O'Boyle.

    "Chris Oletye, the Director of Readiness for AMCOM, did he list the degree on his security clearance application?" we asked.

    "We are currently working with Defense Security Services Personnel to obtain all the paperwork and documentation that surrounds these allegations and the circumstances and once we have that piece of the puzzle in place we'll be able to make a determination," O'Boyle replied.

    This is a very serious matter, and WHNT NEWS 19 thinks you have a right to know answers to questions, for example, does this make Olyete a potential target for blackmail? Does it pose a threat to national security?

    With few answers from Redstone Arsenal, we had to go elsewhere.

    "So here we have someone in Missile Command who is responsible for very hi-tech, very important, very sensitive information who is a possessor of qualifications that are bogus," said George Gollin.

    Gollin is an expert on diploma mills. He worked with federal prosecutors, going after the ringleaders of Saint Regis University, a diploma mill operated out of Spokane, Washington. Saint Regis sold fake degrees to nearly 10,000 people around the world.

    Gollin is also a professor at the University of Illinois and a board member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. That is this country's standard when it comes to accrediting universities and colleges.

    "What if the fellow has a mortgage, what if he's really not in a position to take a pay cut, have to move into a different position because his credentials are not legitimate -- it really does seem to me like someone in that position is very vulnerable to pressure when they really have to choose between giving up their ability to support their family to pay for their home and providing initially what seems like harmless information," said Gollin. "But really, once you provide harmless but classified information, then you've done something that's illegal and that can be used against you," he added.

    As a matter of fact, Oleyte does have a sizeable mortgage. Records show his Madison home was worth more than $330,000 when he bought it in 2006. Oleyte's name is also on the mortgage for a condominium in Honolulu, Hawaii. It's worth $433,400.

    Keep in mind that you, the taxpayer, are paying his salary. But there is more at stake than just taxpayer money.

    "Do you think the blackmail issue is a very real threat?" WHNT NEWS 19 asks Retired Brigadier General David Grange.

    "Those that have issues financially, those that have issue having to have some type of academic achievement or other awards things like this in order to raise their status and that, are subject to manipulation by enemy agents," said Grange.

    Grange serves as the national security expert for CBS NEWS and CNN. He spoke with WHNT NEWS 19 via satellite from Chicago.

    "Could this put our troops in harm's way?" WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran asked.

    "Any time someone has accessibility to classified information and has a character flaw, the results could be putting our troops in harms way, absolutely," said Grange.

    General Grange says this matter is so serious, there's really only one solution.

    "It's disturbing that the individual would in fact do that, not all the checks and balances catch all these types of things, the individual admitted it, the honorable thing to do is to step down be removed from that command and move on, because it's not tolerated," said Grange.

    WHNT NEWS 19 believes there are more top leaders at AMCOM installations worldwide with bogus degrees. The Department of the Army is investigating the names that we have turned over.

    WHNT NEWS 19 is not saying that Oleyte is not qualified to hold the position he has. He may be qualified, but this is a breach of trust, a question of honor and integrity, and sets a bad example because it flies in the face of the Army's policies and values.



  • Breach of Trust: Danger of a Defense Contractor Having a Fake Degree. WHNT NEWS 19's Investigation reveals a defense contractor purchased phony degrees, Wendy Halloran, Huntsville, Alabama WHNT-TV news, May 14, 2009.


    All across Alabama students are celebrating the satisfaction of graduating from college and that they've got their diploma in hand.

    For most people it's not easy to get a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree. It takes years of studying, tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and endless stress from exams.

    What does that diploma get you? The potential for a better profession, higher pay, pride and prestige.

    WHNT NEWS 19 has exposed how people in high positions in the military and missile defense have purchased their degree without spending all the time, energy and money that you did.

    Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran has revealed how some people tried to take a shortcut, paying a fraction of what it costs to go to school and purchased counterfeit credentials.

    In Part 3 of the WHNT NEWS 19 Taking Action investigation we put a man who works for a defense contractor under the microscope.

    Jim Samuelson is the Director of Contracts, Proposals and Pricing for ADT (Applied Data Trends).

    His job is to get his company awarded contracts with the Department of Defense. He has security clearance on Redstone Arsenal, access to classified information about the software his company makes for the Warfighter and he claims to be an International Traffic in Arms Regulations Empowered Official.

    He also teaches continuing education courses in government contracting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

    Wendy Halloran confronted Samuelson and asked him what University he got his bachelor's in business administration and his master's in business from?

    "I really got to go. Please?" replied Samuelson. Halloran then asked, "Does your employer know where it's from?" "Yes, ma'am they do," he said. "And, what university is that sir?" "Please turn that off, turn it off," Samuelson said.

    Many people aspire to achieve an MBA. But, Samuelson took a shortcut by buying one from Saint Regis University, a diploma mill. There were no classes and no course work. All it took was cash.

    "When I did it, I was requested to fill out enormous amounts of paperwork to justify experience," claimed Samuelson.

    The Saint Regis buyer's list we obtained shows he paid $2,917 for the two higher education degrees. Saint Regis University concocted credentials that looked legitimate. But, aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

    Halloran asked him if he turned the degrees over to get his job at ADT. Samuelson replied, "No ma'am. I did not."

    Samuelson's profile on the social networking site, Facebook, provided a wealth of information about his background. He proudly posted details about his decade in the United States Marine Corps, several tours of duty including assignments in Vietnam. He listed his more than 20 years of work experience and his own government consulting business. And, he showcased his higher ed degrees - a bachelor's supposedly earned in 2002 and a master's two years later.

    He posted so much detail, but had one glaring omission.

    Halloran stated, "Your resume currently lists Regis University." "Then I must have had something mess up," replied Samuelson.

    The posting on his Facebook profile indicates his degrees are from Regis University, a legitimate University in Denver, Colorado.

    Halloran asked, "Did you drop the 'Saint' on there? Because Regis University has no record of you, sir." Samuelson just sighed deeply.

    "We checked with Regis University. The Jesuit University was quick to clarify that it had no record of this James Samuelson attending its institution," said Halloran.

    What's the harm you wonder?

    "Do you have security clearance onto Redstone Arsenal?" Halloran asked. "Yes, ma'am I do," he replied.

    A powerful position, access to classified information and a secret that could be used against him.

    "So, I really worry about secrets getting out," stated George Gollin. He's an expert on diploma mills. He worked with the federal government to prosecute the leaders of Saint Regis University.

    Gollin said, "We have holes in our ability to keep information secure that this opens up. So here we have a contractor responsible for handling very sensitive information. Information that, if it gets out, puts our armed forces at risk. The person is susceptible to pressure to blackmail to being told that he needs to provide some information or else they're going to nail him. They'll make him lose his job and this is a person in a position of great responsibility. It's really, really frightening."

    But, don't just take George Gollin's word for it.

    "Any corrupt individual would be harmful to the defense of the United States of America whether it would be this issue or other issues," said Brigadier General David Grange.

    Grange spent nearly three decades serving our country. Now, he's a national security analyst for CBS and CNN. He spoke to Wendy Halloran from Chicago.

    Halloran asked Grange, "Could this put our troops in harms way?" Grange said, "Anytime someone has accessibility to classified information and has a character flaw the results could be putting our troops in harms way. Absolutely."

    Grange said the potential for blackmail is a reality, "Depending on the level of security clearance they have that would be the level of information they could obtain and give to a foreign agent."

    Samuelson's Facebook profile indicates he got the job at ADT in June of 2003. Remember, he got that bogus bachelor's in business in 2002 and the phony MBA in 2004.

    Halloran asked Samuelson again, "Does your employer know about these degrees?"

    He replied, "I'm not. No, the only people who would know about it are thanks to you the whole city."

    ADT is a multi-million dollar defense contractor. We requested an interview with ADT's CEO about this matter. We even provided a set of questions in advance. Instead, ADT's CEO Derrick Copeland sent us a statement that said ADT is aware of the WHNT NEWS 19 investigative report. It went on to say "ADT takes seriously such matters and is currently assessing the facts of the situation to determine what action by ADT, if any, is warranted."

    A college degree isn't a requirement for a lot of jobs posted at ADT. Samuelson said he didn't use the degree to get the job and now worries it could cost him dearly.

    Halloran said, "I'm giving you the chance to tell me exactly what happened here." Samuelson replied, "What you're doing for a living could cost me my living."

    With so much at stake and plenty of professional experience, the nagging question remains why?

    "Let me ask you why you would get these types of credentials after your years in the service in the Marine Corps. Then, all of a sudden you wind up with a bachelor's and a master's in business administration and government contracting. Is it the pressure to get a job? What prompted you to do it?" asked Halloran. "To be a 100 percent honest, what prompted me to get it was that my daughter was about to graduate from college and I have dealt with years of being highly experienced and not having a degree," said Samuelson.

    He went on to say, "There's some discussion that's going to go on. They're going to say 'how could somebody who does what he does be that dumb?' But, you know sometimes all of us do things that are not real bright."

    Samuelson said he was taken advantage of, scammed by Saint Regis University. His attorney told WHNT NEWS 19 that Samuelson thought Saint Regis was legit and that he knew nothing of its accreditation status when he applied for the degree online. Samuelson also told us he's trying to get his degree the right way and he is currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix which is an accredited institution.

    Samuelson and his lawyer stress that he never got a job or promotion because of the degree and he never represented the degree to be anything it was not. Samuelson's lawyer says he never received personal financial gain as a result of the degree certificate and in fact the attorney said Samuelson "has simply lost money."

    A college degree is not required for the continuing education courses that Samuelson teaches at UAH. He is not a faculty member at the school and the people who take his class do not receive academic credit.


  • Warren National University (Kennedy-Western) Chief Academic Officer talks with the Herald, Dave Featherly, Cheyenne, Wyoming Herald, March 3, 2009.


    There have been few more personally satisfying story endings than what has happened with the bogus degree sellers that once made Cheyenne their home. While it remains embarrassing that the Wyoming Legislature was so slow to act, when it finally did, the exodus was swift and certain.

    When unaccredited degree sellers had to move toward accreditation or leave town, almost all left immediately. Only one took a legitimate stab at accreditation. That was the newly named Warren National University (the same business had been known for over 20 years as the infamous Kennedy-Western University).

    After the recent story here about Warren National withdrawing their application for accreditation because the Higher Learning Commission, a USDOE-approved accrediting agency, denied WNU candidacy for accreditation, a former senior administrator of Warren National University contacted me by e-mail...

    When the founder of KWU/WNU (Paul Saltman) visited the accrediting agency, Higher Learning Commission (HLC) in Chicago, accompanied by this chief academic officer (CAO), his pitch to HLC was the strength of his board of directors. HLC had no interest. "Paul had told me that he had an inroad with HLC and that we were going to get this because he 'greased the skids, so to speak'." ...

    "The University (Warren National) would admit anybody," she told me, "if you could write the check, you could come to school." WNU admitted people "who were truly not university quality candidates. So, if you're only modestly prepared to do any of the work, you might have to work really hard to do any of the work." (Note: That might explain Bob Fecht's contention that he worked harder for his bogus Lacrosse degree than he did for his bachelor's degree at SIU.)

    Students could also do mediocre work and get good grades, she said.

    About exams: Students could log onto a website and pull up the test they were to take. Even tests for master's and doctoral degrees were multiple choice. The exam was graded immediately. A student could then get exam results, along with all of the answers, immediately print it out, and if they did not pass, they could call the exam coordinator and say, "I'm ready to re-take that exam."

    What was supposed to happen was that the second exam was supposed to be an "alternate exam" - a different exam. KWU/WNU did not do that. They allowed a retake of the same exam and the student would have the printed answers in front of them when they retook the test.

    Every test could be taken twice. The neat thing about the second time is that the student had the answers. Printed out from taking it the first time and having or choosing to take it again...


  • New Dist. 203 superintendent defends educational background, Melissa Jenco, Suburban Chicago, Illinois, Daily Herald, February 7, 2009.


    The credentials of Naperville Unit District 203's next superintendent are being called into question by critics just days after he was hired.

    Mark Mitrovich, scheduled to take the helm of one of the state's largest school systems July 1, holds a doctorate from the University of Santa Barbara, but the institution is not nationally accredited. Readers responding online to the news of his hiring criticized it as a result.

    Both Mitrovich and the search firm that recommended him say the degree is legitimate and the issue will not affect his ability to lead Naperville schools...

    District 203 school board President Suzyn Price directed questions about Mitrovich to Hank Gmitro, an associate with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the search firm the district employed to help it find a new superintendent.

    Gmitro said the firm was aware of what school Mitrovich attended and learned during a routine check several days ago that it was not accredited. He was unsure of whether the firm learned before or after the board approved hiring the new leader and said it's typical to focus discussions with candidates more on their experiences.

    Gmitro said there is no requirement to hold a doctorate at all in order to be a superintendent. He believes the board made a good selection in Mitrovich, who has both an education and business background...

    Mitrovich, 63, begins his new post July 1. He has signed a three-year contract with the district with a starting annual salary of $203,000.


  • Falsifying diplomas might become a misdemeanor, Roseann Moring, St. Louis, Missouri, Post-Dispatch, February 6, 2009.


    A senator has filed a bill to address the problem with fake degrees that higher ed reporter Kavita Kumar wrote about in December.

    Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit sponsored a bill that would make it a class C misdemeanor to use or attempt to use a false diploma.

    The Senate Education Committee has heard the bill, and could vote on it as early as next week.

    Bartle said in the committee that the bill would not address "diploma mills" that offer a degree for nothing more than money.

    The bill is SB 182.


  • Warren National University (formerly Kennedy-Western University) to close, Dave Featherly, Cheyenne, Wyoming Cheyenne Herald, Februart 2, 2009.


    Thousands of words have been printed on the pages of the Cheyenne Herald over the past nearly four years on the subject of unaccredited "institutions" that had set up shop in Wyoming over the past several years.

    For years, Wyoming has been the target of nationally criticism based on the State's willingness to allow businesses chased from other states to operate with impunity here. For some reason, there were those who had no qualms about welcoming illegitimate and undesirable businesses elsewhere to set up shop within our borders and ply their fraudulent business all over the United States and world, using a Wyoming address.

    Instead of shutting the scoundrels down as the 2006 legislation accomplished, Wyoming first imposed the rather timid requirement of "having a presence" in Wyoming, with at least a single employee here. These outfits rake in hundreds of thousands to several million dollars a year - renting a $350.00 a month office and a minimum wage employee to meet that requirement was no problem.

    Basement offices in the Downtown Mini Mall, the old J.C. Penney Building and the Mossholder's Building and second story offices in the Majestic Building and the Tivoli, in addition to office space at the former Aero Tech Building by the airport runway, presented no challenge.

    When some in the Legislature tired of being ridiculed nationally, they passed legislation requiring these unaccredited institutions to gain, or at least seek, accreditation or get out of Dodge. Like rats from a sinking ship, most immediately scurried. They were not going to become accredited. They couldn't. They weren't providing an education with merit or value - they were selling hope to the unsuspecting.

    Kennedy-Western University has been in business for almost 25 years. "Kennedy." Just imagine how that resonated around the world. Our hero to the free world, John F. Kennedy, had his name usurped by a business that for the past several years could not peddle their product in the state they called home - California.

    Degrees from unaccredited universities aren't meant for citizens of the United States. They are designed to give false hope to those in foreign countries. To those who crave an "American" degree. They don't know Lacrosse University of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi - the notorious degree seller - from University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse - a legitimate campus in the highly-respected University of Wisconsin system.

    Many of the degree peddlers, more often referred to as diploma mills but I don't think that begins to cover the damage they've done, took grandiose names to fool the students who lived far away, most often overseas, into believing the peddler had a connection with something far better than just a bank account to deposit their ill-gotten gains. American Global University. American Capital University. American City University.

    Paramount University of Technology. Three exaggerations in three words.

    Trusting foreign students and their parents didn't know these were scammers. But we did. Employees at the Wyoming Department of Education visited these basement and second floor offices. They knew they weren't conducting classes - they weren't providing an education - from these tiny offices. There were no "professors" there to grade papers or accept calls for assistance. But, our people tolerated this charade. This scam perpetrated on unknowing and trusting students far distant from Wyoming - in particular, from Cheyenne was ignored.

    Junkets were provided legislators and WDOE employees. When you can go to the United Arab Emirates or London, are you going to blow the whistle on these frauds? Does the reputation of Wyoming mean less to these public officials than travel to exotic destinations? Obviously, it meant far less. In one of the stories readers can link to with this story, I made a terrible mistake. I identified Jayne Mockler as one of those who traveled at Preston University expense. It should have been Kathryn Sessions. A career educator, Sessions went to bat for that scammer. Preston was one of the first rats to abandon the sinking ship of unaccredited institutions - they fled to Montgomery, Alabama before the ink dried on the Governor's signature to the new legislation.

    Perhaps the largest of the money takers has been Kennedy-Western University, lastly known as Warren National University. It was not enough to link itself to Kennedy, they grabbed the "Warren" name when they attempted to gain accreditation. Maybe there were less than honorable reasons to take another name after fleecing students for two decades. Maybe they were aware that input from students would be diminished if they didn't realize Warren National was one and the same as Kennedy-Western.

    In the long run, nothing they tried worked. They were not recommended for eligibility for accreditation and they will now pull the plug on their nefarious operation.

    The subject of Warren National University has heated up considerably in recent days. The Cheyenne Herald has been contacted by students who were concerned about the future of WNU, including one who had been trying to get a refund. Further research uncovered even more disconcerting news about WNU. National forums found the Cheyenne Herald's front page story about former superintendent of public instruction Judy Catchpole serving on the boards of both WNU and its parent company, L3, Inc. Over 500 visits were made to that website on a single day last week.

    Another e-mail came from a guy in Illinois. He was upset with that story about Judy Catchpole. He said he had a Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from WNU and had worked hard for it. He called my story "horrible." I informed him that it was illegal in Illinois to use a degree from an unaccredited "university" to obtain a job, advancement or higher pay. He didn't know that.

    Oregon passed a law in the last couple years that requires anyone using a degree from an unaccredited university like Kennedy-Western or Warren National to show a discrediting statement with it. Read this from Oregon:

    "So now Kennedy-Western grads can proudly proclaim their degrees … sort of. Under the new law, those graduates will have to follow mention of their degree by saying that their alma mater "does not have accreditation recognized by the United States Department of Education and has not been approved by the [Oregon] Office of Degree Authorization," the official language dictated by the legislation. The bill, which received only 3 "nay" votes in the 60-member House and 30-member Senate, says that the "disclaimer shall be made in any résumé, letterhead, business card, announcement or advertisement in which the person is claiming or representing to have an academic degree" from an institution that is not either accredited, or licensed to give degrees by the state.

    People who do not use the disclaimer will face up to a $1,000 fine for every violation. They could also face criminal prosecution if the omission is a potential public threat, such as in the case of a public health worker."

    Looks like that would have made it hard to get many jobs in Oregon with a KWU or WNU degree.

    So now that Warren National has failed in its bid to become legitimate and has announced its closing, what about its students? Those with "degrees" should know by now that they could have gotten a comparable degree from a Cracker Jack's box but those who were in the middle of their pursuit are up the creek. Will WNU refund unearned deposits? Probably not. One "Online Degree" forum poster suggested that Wells Fargo Bank was providing loans for students to take the WNU courses. Will they forgive those loans? Probably not.

    KWU continues to treat its students with disrespect. In the closing announcement ( or follow the prompt from the Cheyenne Herald Home Page ), WNU told students they could continue their studies at Preston University. You remember Preston, don't you? Another unaccredited scammer that bolted from Wyoming. PU have no intention of becoming accredited. Did WNU make this transfer to avoid litigation for abandoning students in pursuit of a degree? Did they refer students to an equally reprehensible scammer to perpetrate one final injustice to students who trusted them? That story will follow. (According to the Alabama Department of Post Secondary Education website, Preston University's license expired on 12/1/2008.)


  • Warren National University planning to close, Mead Gruver, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Associated Press, February 2, 2009.


    A Cheyenne-based online university that at one point had nearly 2,000 students has announced it will close at the end of March.

    Warren National University says it has not been accepted as a candidate for nationally recognized accreditation. A state law enacted in 2006 requires all colleges and universities operating in Wyoming to at least be candidates for accreditation.

    In a statement on its Web site, Warren National says the Wyoming Department of education has revoked its registration. The statement says Warren National is appealing that decision.

    However, the statement says March 31 will be the school's last day of instruction and students need to turn in all remaining work by then if they wish to graduate.

    A phone message left at Warren National wasn't immediately returned Monday.


  • Assuring Quality, Across Borders, Elizabeth Redden, Washington D.C., Inside Higher Ed, January 30, 2009.


    With the internationalization of higher education, the world of accreditation and quality assurance is likewise becoming increasing interconnected. An international seminar hosted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation this week drew participants from around the world to discuss challenges in regulating diverse higher education systems — and weeding out illegitimate players (i.e., degree mills) wherever they set up shop.

    In a presentation that opened the two-day seminar on Wednesday, Carolyn Campbell, assistant director of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, in the United Kingdom, outlined three "Rs" that she sees as hot topics in quality assurance internationally: ranking, regulation and reform. Pursuit of top spots in international rankings is "becoming a national aspiration, almost a badge of honor," Campbell said. "One of the more serious issues around this desire for institutions and countries to identify their universities as 'world class' is [that] by estimates only 3 percent of students in the world go to these top-ranked universities. What about the other 97 percent of students? Who's looking out for their interests?"

    That's where the second R — regulation — comes in. Campbell described efforts to redefine quality in terms of learning outcomes, and the growing adoption of qualifications frameworks (more on that later). And then, of course, there's reform.

    "In relation to all these reforms and changes, the introduction of new definitions of academic standards, the search for transparency, compatibility and comparability, there was an s word … sustainability. How sustainable are some of the reforms and some of the new initiatives in quality assurance given that we're living in difficult economic times?" Campbell asked. "Will the money be there to carry through some of these reforms? Will some of the dismay and concern and anger at the failure of self-regulation in one sector of the economy, notably, financial services, spill over into other sectors of the economy which are self-regulating, that is, in many countries, higher education? We're not quite sure."

    With Campbell's talk as the backdrop, the international seminar continued on Thursday, with sessions on trends in quality assurance and accreditation in Africa, Europe and the Arab region. In another session, Richard Lewis, a higher education consultant, focused in on the development of qualifications frameworks, or lists of competencies a student should demonstrate in order to receive a degree of a certain level. What competencies should the holders of a bachelor's degree demonstrate, regardless of where they earned it? Beyond that, on a disciplinary level, what should the "typical" chemistry major know? (Coming up with common disciplinary-level expectations is done through a process known as "tuning.")

    European nations have been developing qualifications frameworks as part of the Bologna Process, which involves creating a common European Higher Education Area and thereby fostering mobility. The United States, however, lacks such a qualifications framework. Or does it?

    "Isn't there a general expectation of a number of credit hours one student needs to get a degree?" Lewis asked. "And isn't it fair to say," he continued, that a degree in physics from University A would have similarities to one from University B?

    "Does that mean that the United States has an informal qualifications framework?" he asked. "Do informal systems work better than formal ones?"

    Another session on Thursday focused on degree mills — illegitimate operators. In outlining steps that can be taken to combat them, John Daniel, president and chief executive officer of the Commonwealth of Learning, placed some responsibility on governments, but also a fair amount on academics. Among his suggestions, he called for the higher education community to maintain informal systems of alerts and blacklists (informal in part because of the litigious nature of some degree mill operators), and also "for everyone to raise their game in checking credentials presented to them." If checking credentials became the norm, Daniel said, "degree mills would soon be out of business."

    Participants and panelists also discussed a gray area: low-quality institutions that wouldn't qualify as degree mills. One audience member suggested a clear distinction, however: Diploma mills are operating fraudulently, and must be suppressed, while for substandard institutions, isn't the purpose of quality assurance to bring their practices up to acceptable levels?


  • Unesco Takes On International Diploma Mills, Eric Kelderman, Washington D.C., Chronicle of Higher Education Accreditation, January 29, 2009.


    The growing demand for college degrees, the globalization of the education market, and the Internet are combining to create a more favorable climate for diploma mills around the world, says Stamenka Uvalic-Trumbic, chief of the section for reform, innovation, and quality assurance in higher education at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

    Ms. Uvalic-Trumbic, who spoke here this morning at the annual meeting of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, explained several measures that Unesco has taken to help prevent fake colleges from succeeding.

    One is an Internet listing of higher-education institutions "recognized or otherwise sanctioned by competent authorities in participating countries" — a so-called white list that students, employers, and others can use to check the credentials of a university.

    So far, 23 countries are participating in the effort, including China, the United States, Britain, Australia, and Japan, as well as developing countries like Kenya and Nigeria.

    The accrediting group, known as CHEA, is an association of 3,000 accredited institutions. It is also working with Unesco to develop a set of suggestions for countries to deal with fraudulent universities.

    "It assumes that individual countries take care of their higher education and quality assurance, but there are ways we can work together internationally," said Judith S. Eaton, president of the organization.

    Despite the widespread attention to diploma mills in recent years, there are several difficulties over how to define diploma mills, how to prosecute the purveyors of fake degrees, and how to influence foreign governments that sometimes benefit from the fraud, said Sir John Daniel, president of the Commonwealth of Learning, an association of more than 50 countries that were originally part of the British Empire.


  • Cabinet vows to maintain high standard of accreditation process, The Communication's Unit, Office Of The Prime Minister Of The Government Of St. Kitts & Nevis, January 20, 2009.


    BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 20TH 2009 (CUOPM) – The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has endorsed the recommendation of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Hon. Sam Condor that the Federation's accreditation process for tertiary institutions such as medical schools needs to maintain a very high standard.

    Cabinet at its routine meeting on Monday approved the recommendation from the Ministry of Education for the appointment of a new chairperson for the St. Kitts and Nevis Institutions Accreditation Board following the resignation of the Ms. Shawna Lake as chairperson.

    The Accreditation Board, established under the Saint Christopher and Nevis Accreditation of Institutions Act, 1999 (No. 21 of 1999), amended in 2001, is responsible for evaluating, certifying and accrediting all tertiary level institutions operating in the Federation, and has the due authority to monitor such institutions over time.

    Minister of Education Condor has emphasised that it is important to have the best qualified person fill the post of Chairperson of the Accreditation Board at this time and was proud to have Cabinet endorse his ministry's recommendation.

    The St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Government is committed to attracting only highly reputable institutions to the Federation and continues to view Education Tourism as a major plank of the industry driving construction, transportation, rental, the purchase of goods and services and other forms of economic activity, and implores the new leadership of the Board to pursue this policy with vigour.

    Cabinet publicly thanks Ms. Lake for her tenure of service as Chairperson of the Accreditation Board and will announce her successor at a later date.

    The institutions accredited by the St. Kitts and Nevis Institutions Accreditation Board are The Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (the National College), Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Medical University of the Americas (located in Nevis), International University of Graduate Studies (IUGS), International University of Health Sciences (IUHS), Windsor University School of Medicine, St. Theresa's Medical School, the University of Medical and Health Sciences and the International University of Nursing.

    In addition:

    Agreement signed for Dixon-Byrd Medical University on St. Kitts, The Communication's Unit, Office Of The Prime Minister Of The Government Of St. Kitts & Nevis, January 21, 2009.


    BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, JANUARY 21ST 2009 (CUOPM) –St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas has signed an agreement for the establishment of the Dixon-Byrd Medical University.

    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Hon. Sam Condor presented the Certificate of Programme and Institution Accreditation to Dr. Dr. Sewell Dixon, who signed on behalf of the university during the signing ceremony.

    Dixon-Byrd Medical University is to be located in the area of Ottley's and has been established as a school of medicine with the right to confer the degree of Doctor of Medicine upon students who have completed the prescribed course of study and demonstrated academic, clinical and ethical conduct commensurate with the degree.

    Dixon-Byrd Medical University will also develop courses of study intended for the granting of additional degree including Doctor of Dental Medicine and Surgery, Doctor of Public Health, Master of Public Health, Doctor of Health Science, Master of Medical Science, Physician Assistant, Bachelor in Radiological Science, Bachelors in Laboratory Science; Doctor of Pharmacy, Bachelors in Pharmacy, Masters in Medical Management and other Germaine and affiliated fields.

    The University, which over time will accommodate some 1500 students and a 12-bed University Hospital, is to be built on 25 acres of land.

    The University Hospital will also be used for clinical observation and teaching purposes and the teaching at government operated hospitals and local physicians will also have the opportunity to participate in student teaching.

    Under the Agreement, Dixon-Byrd Medical University will have a Department of Radiological Sciences that will utilise medical imaging as an adjunct for teaching anatomy and pathology.

    The imaging will consist of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging device (MRI), sited on the campus in St. Kitts and a Computerized Tomographic Scanner (CT) on Nevis and will be made available to patients who are residents of St. Kitts and Nevis and visitors.

    The Agreement also calls for the training of local residents as technicians and staff to operate, support and work with the imaging devices and locals will be given preference to be hired as faculty members, consultants, staff and other workers if qualifications are the same.

    Government has also secured from Dixon-Byrd Medical University, three scholarships for citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis to any degree programme offered by the medical university to be admitted on a yearly basis. The scholarship will cover the cost of tuition, books and equipment.

    An additional scholarship will also be made available to citizens of other CARICOM countries who are residents of St. Kitts and Nevis.

    Under the 15-year agreement, the university will be given a 10-year tax holiday.

    Note that St. Kitts, which had stated "the Federation's accreditation process for tertiary institutions such as medical schools needs to maintain a very high standard," has chosen to "accredit" a medical school which has not yet been built, and has not yet assembled a faculty.


  • THREE PLEAD GUILTY IN FRAUD SCHEME, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney, Eastern District of Michigan, December 18, 2008.


    Three defendants indicted in a scheme to defraud educational institutions, including medical schools, by submitting fraudulent transcripts, pled guilty today in federal court, Acting United States Attorney Terrence Berg announced today.

    Berg was joined in the announcement by Andrew G.Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI and Brian Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

    Abbas Obeid aka Adam Obeid, 34, of Ontario, Canada, Roni Aoub, 27, of Southfield, and Majed Mamo, 40, of Wixom, Michigan all pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Abbas Obeid also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Under the plea agreement, Abbas Obeid faces a sentence of between 10-16 months and/or a $20,000 fine. Defendants Auob and Mamo face sentences of between 0-6 months and/or fines $10,000 fine. According to the indictment filed in this case, during August 2000 and continuing through August 2008, the defendants conspired to defraud educational institutions such as Lawrence Technological University in Southfield and Madonna University in Livonia by submitting fraudulent undergraduate transcripts so that individuals, who paid a fee to the conspirators, would fraudulently obtain transfer credits from those institutions. These credits were applied toward undergraduate degrees. Fraudulent transcripts were also submitted so that individualswould be accepted for enrollment in graduate programs. The indictment alleges that, in exchange for money, the conspirators submitted fraudulent undergraduate transcripts to medical schools located in the Carribean and Belize on behalf of students who otherwise had insufficient undergraduate credits to enter medical school. The indictment alleges that as a result of the defendants' actions, students were admitted to medical school based on the submission of fraudulent undergraduate transcripts.

    In addition, the indictment alleges that defendants Nazeer Hamadneh and Abbas Obeid conspired to submit and submitted fraudulent documents on behalf of foreign students in order to obtain student visas. The indictment further alleges that defendants Nazeer Hamadneh and Majed Mamo tampered with witnesses in an effort to prevent witnesses from providing truthful information to law enforcement.

    Acting U.S. Attorney Berg said, "Making phony transcripts to deceive a university into granting college credits, or even admission to medical school, to completely unqualified students is a kind of fraud that could have all sorts of dangerous consequences, but this case also involved fake student visas as well. Our office will continue to be vigilant in pursuing all types of immigration fraud."

    "Individuals who buy and sell fraudulent college credits not only cheat the educational system; but when used for medical school admissions may endanger public health. Additionally, this undermines the student visa program by allowing individuals into this country who fail to follow through on their obligation to continue their higher education," said Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office.

    "Institutions of higher learning are critical to the advancement of oursocietyand our way of life. Individuals who gain entry into a college or university through fraud undermine the vetting process and depending upon the profession could put the public at risk" said Brian M. Moskowitz, Special Agent in Charge of the ICE Office of Investigations for Michigan and Ohio. "ICE will continue to work with our partners to close this vulnerability."

    The three defendants' sentencings are scheduled for March 24, 2009.

    The investigation of this case has been conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corken.

    See also:


  • Educator overpaid by $50,000 because of questionable doctorate , Jim Cook, Dothan, Alabama Dothan Eagle, December 17, 2008.


    A Houston County educator was overpaid by about $50,000 over a 10-year period based on his questionable doctorate, according to an internal investigation.

    Roy Watford, Houston County Schools secondary curriculum/accreditation director, received extra pay for a doctoral degree he held from the University of Beverly Hills, Houston County School Superintendent Tim Pitchford said. The extra pay amounted to about $5,000 more per year between 1994 and 2004 than he should have received.

    Educators are paid according to their years of experience and highest degree level obtained. To get credit for the degrees, they must come from a university or college accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. SACS does not recognize the University of Beverly Hills.

    Watford denies any wrongdoing on his part, and said he obtained the degree with the understanding it was legitimate and did not seek the extra pay from the county schools.

    "I think there's just somebody who has a vendetta against me and I do not know who or why," Watford said.

    Watford holds a bachelor's degree from Troy University, a master's degree from Peabody College and an education specialist's certificate, also known as an AA, from Auburn University. In 1984, while working in an administrative position at the University of Alabama, Watford obtained a doctorate in education philosophy from the University of Beverly HIlls. Watford resigned from the University of Alabama in 1985.

    In a 1985 letter to Hubert Kessler, then director of personnel services at the University of Alabama, Dennis P. Prisk, dean of continuing studies, said Watford's resignation had to do with his acquisition and use of the doctorate from the University of Beverly Hills, which he describes as a "diploma mill."

    "In short, Roy acquired a bogus degree and was attempting to portray it as legitimate," Prisk said in the letter. "And he committed fraud by telling others the degree was from Auburn."

    Watford denies these accusations and said he returned to Dothan to be close to his family.

    After resigning from the University of Alabama, Watford got a job teaching in the Houston County Schools in 1986. On Watford's employment application, he makes no mention of his doctorate from the University of Beverly Hills, and, according to Pitchford, the doctorate is not listed on his Alabama teaching certificate.

    Watford said he didn't list the diploma on his application because he knew it wasn't accepted and he didn't want to cause complications.

    Watford moved up the ranks of the county school system, becoming an assistant principal and later principal of Rehobeth High. Watford said in the early 90s he was approached by Doyle Bond, who was superintendent at the time, and told his doctorate entitled him to a raise.

    Bond said Wednesday he approached Watford about the raise after receiving a directive from the state that all education employees with a doctorate should receive increased pay. Bond said he forwarded a copy of Watford's diploma from the University of Beverly Hills to the state and got approval for the raise.

    Pitchford and the Alabama Department of Education said no documentation in Watford's personnel file shows state recognition of his doctorate.

    "We have no record of any school superintendent submitting a verification of a higher degree for this individual," said Michael Sibley, a department spokesman.

    Pitchford said he has consulted with Jere Segrest, county school system attorney, and Segrest recommended that he take no action in the matter. Pitchford said he would likely be talking to Watford and the county school board about the matter again in the near future.



  • Phony degrees catch up to buyers, Dale Brazao, Toronto, Canada Toronto Star, December 13, 2008.


    Marie Theriault-Sabourin is a manager in the registrar's office at Algonquin College in Ottawa. She has a master's degree in business administration.

    Quami Frederick used her bachelor's degree to get into Toronto's Osgoode Hall law school and was offered a job articling with a Bay St. law firm.

    Armed with his Ph.D in political science, police tactical trainer Augustus Michalik counts various Canadian and U.S. law enforcement agencies as his clients.

    The problem is, their university degrees are fake.

    They are among at least 220 Canadians with bogus academic credentials uncovered in a recent probe. Worldwide, fake degrees are a billion dollar industry, even threatening government security, investigators say.

    Last week, an undercover Star investigation exposed Peng Sun, a York University grad who forges university degrees from real Canadian universities for $4,000. Sun's client list was not available, but the Star obtained a list of Canadians who bought fake degrees from an American diploma mill busted three years ago by the U.S. Secret Service and Homeland Security.

    St. Regis University, which granted degrees under various names, was a complete fake. Canadians on its "buyers list" gave the Star one of three explanations: some admitted the degrees were bogus, some claimed they submitted course work (but did not provide proof to the Star), and others thought they were awarded real degrees for life experiences.

    "I don't want my name in (the story)," said Theriault-Sabourin, who is the manager of scheduling in the registrar's office at Algonquin, a 16,000-student college in Ottawa. She said she now understands the master's degree she purchased in 2000 for $1,350 is bogus.

    Her husband, Leo, bought two, a bachelor's degree in business and an MBA in marketing. The couple have a turbulent financial past and it's unclear what role the fake degrees played. Leo was found guilty in an Ottawa court of tax evasion and fraud last May for evading almost $5 million in income taxes he prepared for dozens of clients, mainly chiropractors.

    Marie declared bankruptcy earlier this year with more than $680,000 in debts and Leo declared bankruptcy in 2002, owing $483,000 (Leo was discharged from bankruptcy, and Marie's more recent bankruptcy is facing a court hearing).

    "I never used it, and never will use it," Marie said of her degree, which she obtained just before she began her duties at Algonquin. Her husband, who is awaiting sentencing, could not be reached for comment.

    Responsibilities of the registrar's office at Algonquin include authenticating degrees from other educational facilities. A college spokesman would not comment.

    The couple's degrees came from a Washington State diploma mill. Eight ringleaders pleaded guilty to mail and wire fraud charges. They set up 120 fake schools with names like St. Regis University and James Monroe University. There were no courses or classes.

    The head provost of St. Regis University was a high school dropout.

    The gang raked in more than $7 million in sales to 131 countries. It sold everything from high school diplomas to PhDs and medical degrees. Dozens of U.S. government employees are on the list, including a White House staff member, National Security Agency employees, a senior State Department official, and a Department of Justice employee.

    Tens of thousands of people are walking around with "ticking time bombs in their resumes," says Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who has spent a big chunk of his career investigating diploma mills.

    This week Quami Frederick's blew up on her.

    A third-year Osgoode Hall Law School student, Frederick, 28, is on the list as having paid $1,109 for a "B.A." in Business Administration, plus a transcript of marks. Using the degree transcript, Frederick got into Osgoode as one of 290 students selected from 2,500 applicants in 2006.

    Contacted by the Star several weeks ago, Frederick initially denied everything, suggesting she might be the victim of identity fraud.

    "I'm not worried because I never bought any degree from any university," said Frederick, who expected to graduate next year and has a job lined up with Wildeboer and Dellelce, LLP. The law firm noted her degree on its website, welcoming her aboard as an articling student.

    This week, after much soul searching, Frederick changed her story.

    "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have lied to you," Frederick said. "I should've levelled with you. I figured you'd call the university and theywouldn't tell you anything and that would be the end of it."

    The change of heart came after the Star found she never attended St. George's University in Grenada, from where she claimed to have an undergraduate degree. Frederick's case is different from others. St. George's is a real university and it appears the degree mill forged documents from there.

    Frederick now says "the truth" is she spent $8,000 for a six-month, "fast-track" online business degree in 2004. School spokesperson Lisa O'Connor said St. George's does not offer this type of online course.

    "Her degree is completely bogus," said O'Connor, noting the fake transcript shows Frederick spent four years at the school and made the Dean's honour list with a near perfect 3.93 grade point average. "No one by the name of Quami Frederick has ever been a student at our school."

    Frederick told the Star this week that the associate dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University has launched an investigation into "a potential breach of academic honesty" and she may be expelled. A York spokesperson said they have a department that verifies applicant's credentials, but would not comment on Frederick's case. The law firm removed her name from its website yesterday and is investigating.

    The St. Regis degree mill was shut down in August 2005 after a Secret Service agent, posing as a retired Syrian army weapons specialist, applied for three degrees, saying he needed them urgently to stay in the United States.

    The only requirement St. Regis made of this potential terrorist was whether he would be paying with Visa, MasterCard or American Express. Two weeks and $1,277 later, the fictional Mohammed Syed got his degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering, based on his "life experience."

    Seeing St. Regis as a threat to national security, a task force comprised of eight federal agencies moved quickly. In six years of operation, St. Regis had spread its tentacles around the globe ensnaring clients across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia.

    Operators used email to spam potential customers with tempting offers that included, "buy one degree at full price, get a second free."

    Wayne Victor Cook bought two.

    A former provincial and municipal candidate in Ontario, Cook claims his public affairs company Wayne Cook Public Affairs Consulting confers with the president of the United States at the White House. He also claims on his website that he played a key role in getting John Tory elected as leader of the Ontario Conservative Party.

    Listing numerous blue chip companies and Ontario universities as employers and clients on his curriculum vitae, Cook also claimed to have an Executive MBA from the very real Heriot-Watts University in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    He does not.

    What he does have is two bogus degrees, an MBA and a Ph.D., purchased from the St. Regis diploma mill in 2004.

    Cook, who ran for the Ontario Liberals in Beaches-Woodbine in 1981 and Toronto City Council in 1997, losing both times, paid $1,133 for a Ph.D. and an MBA in Human Resources Management.

    Just hours after being contacted by the Star, Cook's online bios underwent radical changes. His Executive MBA from Heriot-Watts is now "expected" in 2010. All references to his MBA and PhD were deleted.

    "I don't have an interest, and really don't have any comments for you," Cook replied when asked to explain the vanishing degrees.

    A spokesperson for John Tory denied Cook played any role in his election as leader.

    Design engineer Terry A. Hrushka is so proud of his three degrees from St. Regis that he's posted them on his website – a Bachelor of Science in Natural Physics in 1992, a Master of Applied Science in 1994, and a Doctorate in Process Physics in 1996.

    The problem is St. Regis University, which falsely claimed it was accredited by the government of Liberia, didn't issue any degrees, bogus as they were, until 1999. What they did do was graduate any student with a credit card on any date they wanted.

    "What you have written to me has devastated my life," Hrushka said in an email to the Star, responding to written questions. Hrushka said he thought his degrees were real. "I have now wasted six years of my life and just over $50,000 U.S."

    "I wish I had the records to prove all this," Hrushka wrote, claiming he took correspondence courses from St. Regis. "But unfortunately they were lost over time as I moved around a great deal."

    Martial arts expert Augustus Robert Michalik counts the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the U.S. Navy Seals, CIA agents and police officers from across Ontario as students of his Police Tactical Training and Black Arts courses he has taught for years.

    Proudly posted on his website are certificates of achievement including one issued to "Dr. Augustus Michalik, PhD", by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research for courses in Global Terrorism.

    Author of several books, including The Knife Fighting Anti-terrorist Handbook, Michalik purchased his degree in "Political Science" for $1,340 in 2003, and paid for it with a credit card, according to the information compiled by the U.S Justice Department.

    "You've got the wrong guy," Michalik said when reached on his cell phone at his base in London, Ont., saying he had just returned from a consulting job in the Philippines. "That's not me."

    His Ph.D. is in " political philosophy dealing with terrorism," Michalik said, but refused to name the university. "If you want, you can talk to my lawyer," Michalik said, then hung up.

    Days later, all references to his Ph.D. disappeared from the website of Homeland Security Inc. where Michalik is the CEO. The Star was unable to determine which officers from the RCMP or other forces Michalik has trained.

    One degree recipient, Dr. Anthony Alsayed, says he has instructed his lawyer to sue the people behind St. Regis in an attempt to clear his name.

    A Lebanese-born Canadian with a medical degree from People's Friendship University in Moscow, Alsayed admits he made a mistake in trying to piggyback a PhD from St. Regis on to his medical degree from Russia.

    "I'm a victim in this. It's not as if I'm a plumber who was looking for a PhD in education," Alsayed, said in an interview at his Mississauga home. "I have my MD. I'm a real doctor."

    His medical degree is recognized in Canada, Alsayed said, but he is not licensed to practice as a physician. Until recently he ran a company that prepped students to take their medical exams.

    Alsayed showed the Star a receipt for $1,659 for his PhD in "Medical and Health Care Education." He also paid $650 to a U.S. degree certification company that checked out St. Regis and told Alsayed his degree was issued by a bona fide university accredited by Liberia. What Alsayed did not know was that the St. Regis scam artists had fooled everyone, creating a website purporting to be that of the Liberian government, which heaped praise on St. Regis as a great university.

    To add insult to injury, St. Regis took the marks Alsayed got from his medical courses in Russia, and lowered them in the transcripts they sold to him. When he protested, they sent him an email saying a PhD in "Medical Management" from St. Regis was a very tough degree to earn.

    "My wife says I'm naïve," Alsayed said of how he fell for the scam. "I thought this was the way they did things in North America."

    Teacher Kin-Yau "Kenny" Wong has a real master's in business from the University of Toronto, then went and endangered his career by adding a bogus Ph.D. from Belford University to his academic record.

    "I tried to use it at my school, but later on I found out that was wrong," Wong said. "I can frankly say I did not use it for any financial gain," said Wong, who paid $1,540 for the bogus Ph.D. in education.

    "I admit I did something wrong," Wong said. "I just tried to satisfy my own ego."

    Bogus degrees are a billion-dollar-a-year industry, says former FBI agent Ezell, who has spent most of his career investigating the sale of counterfeit and bogus college credentials and is now vice-president for corporate fraud investigation for Wachovia Bank.

    Ezell, who headed the massive FBI investigation in the late 1980s, estimates there are 400 Internet diploma mills spewing out 200,000 bogus diplomas a year. More than 85 per cent are located in the U.S.

    The fallout from the St. Regis bust is just now being felt across America.

    Fourteen New York firefighters were fined more than $135,000 after they submitted bogus degrees from St. Regis in attempts to gain promotions. Six Chicago-area police officers also purchased bogus degrees. One cop even submitted his "tuition" from St. Regis for reimbursement from the department.

    His superior, who signed off on the expense, had also obtained a bogus degree from the same diploma mill.



  • Phony degree scam exposed, Dale Brazao, Toronto, Canada Toronto Star, December 7, 2008.


    For $3,000, Peng Sun can turn anyone into an instant graduate from the most prestigious universities in the country.

    For another $1,000, he'll provide authentic-looking transcripts for the dozens of classes you never attended.

    All you need is a bundle of cash and the nerve to meet him in a parking lot somewhere in the GTA. In return you will get a forged university degree virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.

    We know this because for $4,000, Peng Sun made a York University MBA diploma for a Star operative posing as a Toronto bank employee who needed one quickly to land a high-paying job in China. In three days, Sun produced documents that would take years and hefty tuition fees for a real student to earn.

    Education leaders say the widespread production of bogus degrees damages the academic system and police warn that forged documents create security risks.

    Sun's counterfeit ring, the brash 26-year-old York University grad claims, has forged hundreds of college and university degrees in the past four years. He started the business while a visa student at York.

    "Three (degrees) per week, a good week, I get four," Sun told the Star's undercover operative of the high demand for his bogus degrees.

    His work is top-notch. His prices are higher than those charged by diploma mills advertising on the Internet because his fakes are of superior quality, for real universities, printed on thick, watermarked paper, and stamped with university seals.

    For the $4,000 Sun also provided two copies of grade transcripts in sealed York University envelopes ready to hand to prospective employers.

    "Once you crack the watermark you can forge anything," Sun boasted to one of two operatives the Star used during a two-month investigation. "You can print money."

    University of Toronto and York University degrees are the most sought after by his clients, mainly students who don't want to study, or immigrants returning to China who need a diploma to land a well-paying job. Sun said the price for a bachelor's degree, MBA or PhD is the same. For him, it's the same amount of work, paper and ink.

    "I have friends from China who spend three years here, didn't want to go to school, but got York and U of T degree (from him) then got a job," Sun boasted. "There are many of them. It's funny."

    "My quality is the best. You can't even distinguish. The paper, its weight, quality, pattern, colour, fonts, layout, logo design, stamp, seal are the same as the real thing."

    "You will get your return," Sun said to the operative's comment that $4,000 was a lot of money. "If you pay 30 years of tuition fees, you still have to study for 30 years."

    Sun advertises his fake degrees on an Internet bulletin board. He did not ask to see any identification before undertaking to make an MBA degree for one of our operatives, who went by the name Calvin Wai Tak Lee. After email and telephone exchanges, Calvin Lee met Sun in the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. two weeks ago. Our operative gave him a date of birth, the requested graduating year (2006), plus a $400 cash down payment.

    Three days later, Calvin Lee had his Master of Business Administration from York's prestigious Schulich School of Business, bearing the embossed slogan "with all the honours, rights and privileges which appertain to this degree." The degree was delivered at a meeting that began in Sun's white Toyota Yaris in the same parking lot.

    Bearing a graduation date of June 2006, the degree carries the university's crimson seal and the forged signatures of then-Chancellor Peter Cory and President Lorna Marsden. Cory is a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Marsden is a former Canadian senator.

    For the $4,000 Sun also provided transcripts detailing two years of alleged study in marketing courses at Schulich, awarding Calvin Lee an A in Organizational Behaviour, but only a C+ in Strategy Field Study.

    Shown the bogus degree and transcripts, York University Registrar Joanne Duklas was both impressed by the quality of the forgeries and outraged that anyone, especially a former student, would undertake such "nefarious" work.

    "As a group, registrars of schools are appalled by this behaviour and find it unacceptable," said Duklas, whose forged signature is on the transcripts.

    So confident was Sun about the quality of his work that before taking his payment, he drove Calvin to the York University bookstore at the Keele St. campus to compare his newly minted forgery to framed samples on display there.

    Back in the car, Sun demanded the remaining $3,600 before turning over the degree, stashing the cash in an empty Godiva chocolate box and shoving it under his car seat.

    As he drove the Star's operative back to the Shoppers' lot, Sun sought to involve our operative in another of his scams, asking Calvin (who was posing as a banker) if he could put him in contact with someone at the bank who deals with mortgages and loans.

    "Some people want to return to China, sell their passports, SIN cards, and we can use their names to go to the bank and get loans," Sun explained. "Once you get the money in hand ..."

    When they reached Shoppers, two Star reporters confronted Sun as he was about to drive off. Startled, Sun said little, then grudgingly handed over the box of money when asked by the Star.

    "I'm just doing research," Sun said several times, when told that he had been the subject of the newspaper's probe into fake university degrees.

    "I reserve the question," Sun said several times, when asked to explain his actions.

    "Can I go now?" he asked, then sped off in the Yaris in the direction of his luxury condo two blocks away on Greenview Ave. Property records show that he paid $410,000 for the unit and it is mortgage free. At a previous meeting Sun had arrived in a $60,000 BMW 525xi, bearing the vanity plate A 001. Subsequent phone calls to Sun's cellphone have gone unanswered.

    Sun's own York University degree is real. He graduated from the Atkinson School of Administrative Studies in 2007 with a Bachelor of Human Resources Management and upgraded it to an honours degree this year, the university confirmed. But in discussions with our operatives, Sun played down his academic achievements, saying his degree has been of limited use to him. In China, as it is in Canada, it's who you know and your work experience that counts, he said.

    "I've forgotten everything (I learned) in school. All theoretical. Nothing useful."

    Sun came to Canada as a visa student years ago and took courses at Humber College before enrolling at York. Known to friends, clients and in Internet chat rooms as "Randy," he has advertised on the Internet for years, primarily on, a bulletin board popular with Chinese visa students. He calls his company Golden China Overseas Studying.

    That's where a Mandarin-speaking Star operative saw his ads, not only for diplomas, but automobile insurance, student cards and other types of identification.

    Contacted by email, Sun boasted openly of his ability to produce degrees from most Canadian universities, with the exception of the University of Western Ontario in London. A University of Toronto degree would have to carry a graduation date prior to June of this year. U of T has started using holographs on its diplomas, which are harder to copy, but Sun said recently he is now in a position to fabricate the new U of T degrees, for $6,000.

    "We have the watermark paper, we have the seals," Sun said. "My quality is very, very, good. As close as you can get to the real thing."

    Besides the degrees, he offered for sale numerous other counterfeit documents, which could push the price to more than $10,000. These include forged letters from the Chinese Consulate in Toronto and the Chinese Ministry of Education in Beijing attesting the client as a bona fide student in Canada.

    "I can get all these documents pretty fast," Sun said in an email prior to the first of three face-to-face meetings with the Star's operatives. "If it is not urgent, give me a week. The pivotal question is, when you will need it?"

    He does not provide samples of his work, he said, because he can't take a chance of being caught with any evidence or have his work fall into the hands of his competitors. "I used to show samples to all customers. One evening I was in a parking lot at Finch and Leslie. I was showing samples. Not even five minutes, police came to us. I was quick. I put them away. Police said someone called police and reported you selling fake documents. I said, no, I'm here chilling out with friends.

    "Since then I don't carry any samples with me."

    Chinese employers rarely check the authenticity of foreign degrees, he told one of our operatives. Even if they do, universities don't normally give out information over the phone, preferring a faxed request, he said. In that case, the applicant should provide the employer with a fax number in Toronto. Confirmation of the degree will then be faxed to China on the university's letterhead. For his protection, and that of his clients, Sun claims he purges all client information from his laptop, and shreds all documents a week after the transaction is sealed and delivered.

    "The last person you want to see, after you buy a degree from me, is me," Sun told one of our operatives.

    The bogus-degree market is a billion-dollar industry, authorities say, with hundreds of Internet sites pumping out an estimated 200,000 fake diplomas a year around the globe. Fake degrees pose a security risk in the hands of potential terrorists, who might use them to gain entry into North America or advance into sensitive jobs. Two of the terrorists involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks entered the United States on student visas.

    "The dangers posed by a diploma mill are real,'' says University of Illinois Professor George Gollin, who has studied the problem for years. "It is bad enough that persons using fake degrees obtain undeserved status or swindle unwitting victims, but there is a real danger when phony physicians treat the sick, untrained engineers design bridges or teachers with purchased credentials instruct our children."

    In April 2007, York Regional Police arrested five Chinese visa students alleged to be operating a "full-service" forgery mill in the basement of a house in Markham.

    The gang had produced "hundreds, if not thousands" of top-quality degrees, passports, visas, driver's licences and marriage certificates and sold them on the Internet. Among the hundreds of documents seized by police were degrees from U of T, York, Western, Carleton, Acadia, Brock, Seneca College and George Brown, as well as stamps used to produce the university seals and blank watermarked transcripts.

    "This was quite the brazen operation," York Regional Police Chief Armand La Barge said at a news conference to announce the biggest takedown of a forgery den in Ontario's history.

    "They were charging $18,000 for immigration papers and enough other documents that you could create an entire false identity."

    The sophistication of the degree-making operation was such that diplomas matched the correct university president's signature to the year of the graduation.

    "I've never seen quality like this," Det. Mathew Ma, an expert on high-tech crime, told reporters. "I can't tell the difference between the false and the originals."

    But the case blew up in court last month after a judge ruled police entered the house initially without a warrant or reasonable grounds. Charges were withdrawn against three of the accused, and Justice Richard Blouin acquitted the other two, a husband and wife.

    The quality and volume of fake documents presented serious national security concerns, Blouin said in his ruling.

    The Star has no evidence linking Peng Sun to that forgery operation.

    Bogus diplomas diminish the value of the work legitimate students put into obtaining real degrees, said George Granger, executive director of Ontario Universities Application Centre, which acts as a clearing house for student seeking admission to Ontario's 21 universities.

    "No one really knows how extensive this is, but we do know it is a problem and the universities are taking steps to deal with it," Granger said. Some of those measures include changing the look of their degrees every so often.

    Watermarked paper, which is intended to foil forgery attempts, is kept under lock and key. Transcripts are printed on special paper that can't be photocopied without the word "copy" showing through. Each sheet is numbered and spoiled transcripts are destroyed.

    "We treat our degrees like currency," said Laurie Stephens, director of media relations for U of T. New degrees are imprinted with a hologram to deter would-be forgers.

    Employers and other interested parties can now request verification of any U of T degree online, if they know the student's name, social insurance number or student number. They will get an answer in five days. York University is considering a similar move.

    U of T graduates about 12,000 students a year. Both U of T and York get several hundred calls each week from prospective employers and other universities, many of them overseas. Anyone with a concern about the legitimacy of a degree should contact the Registrar's Office at either school.

    Canada has no law specific to degree forgery, though in 20 American states it is a crime to use fake degrees and the U.S. Congress is studying legislation to deal with diploma mills.

    In Canada, allegations of degree forgery come under the forgery section of the Criminal Code. "Possessing a false document could be defended on the basis that it is a novelty item," said criminal lawyer Scott Cowan, who defended one of the accused in the Markham bust. "But passing off a fake degree as an original in a job application would amount to the offence of uttering a forged document. It could be as serious as using a counterfeit bill."

    "Make sure you buy a frame to frame your diploma," Peng Sun told Calvin Lee as he left his car with the bogus degree in his briefcase. "You can even get it from Wal-Mart. If you have a problem, call me. Good luck."


  • Fake college boss sent to prison, BBC, United Kingdom, BBC News at Six, December11, 2008.


    A man who ran a bogus college in a £16m fraud which involved 80,000 students has been jailed for seven years.

    Michael Smallman, 45, of Northallerton, was convicted of fraudulent trading while his wife Angela was convicted of money laundering in October.

    Smallman ran the National Distance Learning College (NDLC) in Middlesbrough which collapsed in 2001.

    His wife was jailed for 15 months. Only 18 students received diplomas from the college, Teesside Crown Court heard.

    The college's directors, Peter Kenyon, 43, and John Hornsby, 59, were cleared of fraud after a four-month trial earlier this year.

    The court heard Smallman tempted 80,000 students to sign up for his home study courses, netting him £10m in 15 months.

    But only 18 of the would-be graduates ended up with a genuine qualification when they finished their studies.

    Between September 2000 and November 2001, Smallman's company was running a massive fraud, cheating the students and the government by offering inadequate training, refusing to refund students who chose not to go ahead with the course and claiming the qualification was accredited by the City and Guilds of London Institute when it was not.

    'Unlike Robin Hood'

    When it collapsed, the business owed £3.5m to creditors. The hearing also heard that millions made from the college had been spent on horseracing and property renovation.

    Prosecutor Andrew Wheeler said: "Even at the early stage his (Smallman's) intentions were clear, money was the prime driving factor to the detriment of students.

    "This was not just sharp practice, it went well beyond what ordinary and decent people would regard as honest - it was fraudulent."

    Peter Woodall, defending Smallman, of Leeming Lane, said that he had not set out to commit fraud but had struggled to keep the college afloat.

    Judge George Moorhouse told him that unlike Robin Hood he had robbed the poor to make himself rich.


  • Diploma mills should be targeted, Judith Eaton, President, Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Appearing in: Springfield, Missouri News-Leader, December 9, 2008.


    The article in the Nov. 20 edition of the News Leader ("State Department of Education warns against diploma mills") addresses an important issue for the state of Missouri. Diploma or degree mills -- rogue providers of higher education -- undermine the value of legitimate colleges and universities in Missouri as well as other states.

    Mills reduce the value of degrees that are awarded. Moreover, mills and their fraudulent credentials threaten public safety, especially when fake degrees are offered in such vital areas as health and engineering. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation has sent a letter to the governors, attorneys general and secretaries of education of all 50 states, as part of CHEA's ongoing effort to combat degree mills. The purpose of CHEA's letter is to urge that states take additional action, as needed, to discourage and ultimately eliminate fraudulent providers of higher education.

    In the letter, CHEA specifically recommends that states consider, if they have not done so, establishing or strengthening definitions in state law for "degree mills." CHEA also urges that states take legislative and regulatory steps, such as those being urged in Missouri, to discourage or eliminate use of fraudulent credentials issued by degree mills.

    Working together, we can be effective in reducing or eliminating degree mills in the United States and internationally. Doing so will benefit students throughout the country, including the state of Missouri.


  • Charges against state troopers could be at year's end, Jeremy Pawloski, Olympia, Washington, The Olympian, December 9, 2008.


    OLYMPIA - Thurston County prosecutors are reviewing State Patrol's criminal investigation of nine troopers on paid leave because they may have used phony college diplomas to receive higher pay grades - but no decision has been made on whether charges will be filed, a prosecutor said today.

    Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said Tuesday that State Patrol has made no recommendation in its investigative file as to whether criminal charges should or should not be brought against the troopers on leave. Tunheim said it may take his office until the end of the year to review the investigation and make a charging decision on the nine troopers.

    "They specifically have not made any recommendation on charges," Tunheim said of the State Patrol.

    State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins confirmed Tuesday that when the patrol presented its investigative file to the Thurston County Prosecutor's office on Friday, there was no recommendation on charges.

    State Patrol's investigation began during the summer, after information came to light about a Spokane diploma mill that offered fraudulent online high school and university degrees for a fee, State Patrol Capt. Jeff DeVere has said.

    The patrol subsequently launched an audit of its employees to determine whether any of their degree were fraudulent. As part of the patrol's union contract, troopers can obtain a 4 percent pay increase for a bachelor's degree, and a 2 percent increase for a two-year or master's degree, according to DeVere.

    Nine troopers, including three sergeants, are on paid leave as a result of the investigation.

    The nine troopers who have been on leave since Oct. 13 have been identified as: troopers Bryan Ensley and Gabriel Olson, and Sgts. Jason Linn and Rob Brusseau, all of Vancouver, Wash.; troopers John McMillan and Spike Unruh, both of Wenatchee; trooper Dennis Tardiff of Seattle; Sgt. Chris Sweet of Kelso; and trooper Dan Mann of Spokane.

    Jeremy Pawloski covers public safety for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5465 or [email protected].


  • Shlachter & Co.: Kress building may be public art canvas, Fort worth, Texas Star-Telegram, december 8, 2008.


    The new owner of the Kress building in downtown Fort Worth is exploring the idea of turning the exposed brick wall of the building's north side into public art space.

    Mark Moran, whose family bought the historic building at 604 Main St. in March, presented a couple of ideas to the Downtown Design Review Board last week. Both ideas, designed by the Kress building's superintendent, Tom LeVesque, were 40-by-80-foot-by-9-inch relief sculptures incorporating the words Kress Fort Worth.

    "I knew before we bought the building I wanted to do something," Moran said. "To me, it's a canvas."

    Board members expressed enthusiasm for the idea, but suggested that Moran work with the Fort Worth Arts Commission to explore options.

    "We've looked at that blank wall for an awfully long time," said board member Bill Boecker.

    S.H. Kress Co. built the structure in 1936 and occupied it until 1960.

    Continental National Bank used the upper three floors for a decade until the early 1980s. Those floors reopened in 2006 as 24 loft apartments.

    The Fox and Hound English Pub & Grille is on the street level, and Hyena's Comedy Club is in the basement.

    Does business 'pillar' have dubious degree?

    Harold Rafuse, a man described as a respected "pillar" of Waco's business community, apparently bought his Ph.D. from a Wyoming diploma mill that has disappeared in the Bahamas after changing its name.

    Rafuse, aside from owning a technology and consulting company that does business with Lockheed, sits on the board of a publicly traded company, Life Partners. Remarkably, the Waco-based Life Partners doesn't give a flip that Rafuse's doctorate in "engineering management" from Hamilton University is, ah, questionable.

    All of this came to light because of Barry Minkow.

    As a teenage entrepreneur, Minkow launched a carpet-cleaning service called ZZZZ Best that made its money lying to shareholders about revenues.

    He emerged from prison claiming to have found Christ and wanting to do good works, like exposing other people's scams and wrongdoing.

    Minkow's Fraud Discovery Institute and checks out the credentials of executives and board members of public companies, screens for shenanigans and then alerts the media.

    By the way, it sometimes sells the stock short to profit from any negative feedback. So far, TheWall Street Journal and Bloomberg News Service have followed up his tips.

    It was Minkow's profit motive, not his revelations about Rafuse's questionable sheepskins, that upset the general counsel at Life Partners, which operates in the secondary life insurance market.

    Neither Rafuse nor another top executive of his privately held Advanced Concepts and Technologies International returned our calls. But Scott Peden, Life Partners in-house lawyer, gave us an earful. And some remedial journalism tips.

    The rapid-talking company counsel, who called Rafuse a Waco mover and shaker, instructed: "Rumors started by ex-felons should not be used as news sources."

    But are they true?

    Peden conceded that Rafuse did inaccurately describe an associate's degree from Temple University as a bachelor's.

    Rafuse told Life Partners he had received a letter from Temple telling him that the three-year program was "equivalent" to a four-year one. Unfortunately, the letter got lost, Peden said. The company will correctly cite the degree in the future, he said.

    As for Rafuse's doctorate, Life Partners stands by it.

    "I think it's important to note the degree was awarded," said Peden.


    Hamilton U., which began life in Hawaii as American State University, moved to that hallowed center of higher learning, Evanston, Wyo., (population 11,400), where it operated until closed by court order. As far as we can determine, it disappeared deep in the Caribbean after reinventing itself as Richardson University.


  • Diploma mills 'graduate' thousands with bogus degrees, Joe Ducey , Phoenix, Arizona KNVX-TV, November 25, 2008.


    With a couple of keystrokes, you can do something in just seven days that takes others years to do - get a college degree.

    Online school Bedford University makes the claim. All you have to do is pick a field.

    The school calls the degrees legitimate.

    John Bear has another name. He calls them "truly fake."

    Bear is an expert on diploma mills, a billion dollar industry of phony schools that print very real looking degrees.

    Some of those degrees have made their way right here to the Valley.

    Last year, the Attorney General's Office in Washington state busted a group of bogus schools in Operation Golden Seal.

    A list of 10,000 names became public, customers with PhDs, Masters degrees and more.

    Click here to see Arizonans on the Operation Golden Seal list

    The list includes Mario Rochin, Tolleson's chief building official.

    Rochin has PhD in business administration from one of the schools involved in Operation Golden Seal.

    Rochin didn't return our calls and had nothing to say to ABC15 at Tolleson City Hall.

    Tolleson City Manager Reyes Medrano later told ABC15, "I feel horrible for him (Rochin) for being duped."

    While Rochin got the degree after getting his job, Joe Cockrell with said some see these degrees as an easy way to get ahead.

    "That's probably going to do more harm than good," Cockrell said. "Ultimately that's going to be discovered."

    We had questions about a PhD listed on Dr. Kathleen Gillespie's behavioral health office in Sun City.

    It's also on her resume as a part-time instructor at NAU.

    Gillespie is on the Operation Golden Seal customer list, but she said she wasn't aware.

    While she declined to answer questions on camera, Gillespie later emailed ABC15:

    "I was fully aware that the degree being offered from Van Ives was an 'equivalency' degree that was being offered for past education, current education, and continuing education. My purpose for seeking the degree was for educational purposes only, not professional as I had all the education and credentials necessary for practicing as a Licensed Professional Counselor. The degree was never questioned by either of the Universities I have taught for or the over 50 companies I have provided services for. I have since earned an academic Doctorate of Psychology from California Sothern University which is accredited in California and accepted for licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in California."

    Gillespie has also taken the PhD off her online biography.

    "I call it putting a time bomb in your resume," Bear said.

    We put Belford University to the test, applying for a Masters degree in Veterinary Medicine for Joe Ducey's dog, Sedona.

    After typing a short description of life experiences and paying $479, the degree arrived from Dubai seven days later, along with a transcript with grades for classes we never took.

    A senior student counselor defended Belford, but he was surprised they gave a degree to a canine.

    Belford University is not accredited with the U.S. Department of Education.

    It is illegal in a dozen states to use an unaccredited degree. Arizona is not one of those states.

    Note: California Southern University is licensed, but NOT accredited by the State of California: accreditation can only be granted by accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.


  • Missouri Officials Warn of Fake Diplomas , Jennifer Moore, Missouri State University, KSMU Ozarks pubic Radio, November 20, 2008.


    The Missouri Department of Higher Education plans to propose legislation that would make it illegal to get a job or a promotion in Missouri using a phony degree. KSMU's Jennifer Moore reports. Officials estimate 200,000 fake diplomas are bought and sold in the United States each year from so-called "diploma mills."

    Zora Mulligan Aubuchon, assistant commissioner for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, says the term "diploma mill" can include a range of different scam operations.

    Aubuchon said another form of diploma mills is where the applicant does a little bit of academic work in order to get a degree, but nothing comparable to the coursework found at the university level.

    One diploma mill went by the name "St. Regis University," which is a bogus institution. It was discovered by federal authorities and shut down in 2005, but not before it had sold 7 million dollars worth of fake diplomas, including ones claiming to be from the University of Missouri.

    Aubuchon says new legislation is needed in Missouri clearly stating that producing and using fake degrees is against the law.

    "To get an idea of just how easy it would be to fake a diploma, I'm going online right now to Google...I'm gonna type in here "get a fake diploma." Let's see what it comes up with...okay, there are about 500,000 hits..."

    Zora Aubuchon says the department of higher education occasionally gets calls from employers who are skeptical as to whether the applicant really holds a degree.

    She added that it may not be sufficient just to look at an applicant's transcript or to ask to see a diploma.

    Aubuchon said employers can always call a university's registrar, which should be able to tell the employer if someone graduated from that school.

    For KSMU News, I'm Jennifer Moore.


  • Judge sentences Hamilton U. owner, Mead Gruver, Casper, Wyoming, Star-Tribune, October 28, 2008.


    The owner of an unaccredited online university that drew attention to Wyoming as a haven for such schools was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for tax fraud.

    Rudy Marn owned Hamilton University, a school that existed primarily online but had an office in Evanston. Marn pleaded guilty Aug. 1 to fraud and making false statements for filing a false individual income tax return for 2003.

    U.S. District Judge William Downes sentenced Marn in Casper to two years in prison and a year of supervised probation. Downes also ordered Marn to pay $618,937 in restitution to the IRS, according to IRS spokesman Bryan Thiel.

    Thiel said Marn must report to prison by Dec. 30.

    A message left for Marn's attorney, Tim Kingston, wasn't immediately returned Tuesday.

    Thiel didn't know where Marn has been living lately. However, he said Marn has been ordered to satisfy his restitution in part through the sale of a home in Palm Beach, Fla.

    According to court documents, Marn reported total personal income of $169,888 on his 2003 tax return. Prosecutors said Marn owed $239,846 that year, which would have required earning several times more income than he reported.

    A court document stated Marn "earned a substantial amount of income" from a business in Wyoming. Thiel couldn't confirm whether that was Hamilton University but said Hamilton was still operational in 2003. The school has since shut down.

    The television program "60 Minutes Wednesday" focused on Hamilton University in 2004. The program pointed out that the school had an official-looking Web site but was located in a former motel. The television crew saw no sign of faculty or students.

    Hamilton's alumni included a high-ranking Department of Homeland Security official and the CEO of Cessna Aircraft, the program reported.

    Wyoming has since cracked down on unaccredited colleges. State law now requires schools doing business in the state to at least be recognized as candidates for federally recognized accreditation.

    Many online schools have left Wyoming since the law was passed in 2006.


  • Diploma mill webmaster gets 4 years for fraud, porn, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Spokesman Review, October 29, 2008.


    The computer guru behind a Spokane-based diploma mill operation who was caught with 11,000 images of child pornography was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison – the longest term given any of eight defendants in the case that spanned the globe.

    Kenneth Wade Pearson was given six months for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud – the diploma mill operation – and a concurrent 48-month sentence for receipt of child pornography.

    The 33-year-old Spokane father of three could have faced 108 to 135 months in prison for the pornography, but he began immediately cooperating with federal investigators in Operation Gold Seal in August 2005 – even before he was appointed an attorney.

    Pearson served as the webmaster for dozens of online, fictional universities and high schools set up by Dixie and Steve Randock but was only paid an hourly wage of $9 while the masterminds racked in an estimated $8 million. He also set up a false Liberian embassy Web site used by the Randocks as part of their operation.

    "He provided crucial details about the scheme," Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs said, helping investigators build their case against seven other defendants.

    In newly filed court documents, the federal prosecutor disclosed that Pearson told investigators the diploma mill operation also counterfeited and sold "Microsoft Certified System Engineer" certificates. Court records don't say exactly how many of those bogus Microsoft certificates were sold. A Microsoft spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

    After agreeing to talk to investigators in August 2005 during their search of a Post Falls office used by the Randocks, Pearson voluntarily agreed to a search of his home in Spokane and turned over computers he used to support the diploma mill sites.

    On one of those computers, investigators found 11,000 images of child pornography. Some of the pictures were of children younger than 12 and portrayed "sadistic and masochistic conduct," according to court documents.

    Pearson told investigators he downloaded the images "in an effort to create a legal adult pornography Web site" at the request of his employer, Dixie Randock, court documents say.

    Pearson pleaded guilty in October 2006. He became the third member of the diploma mill ring to strike a plea bargain and agree to testify against ringleaders Dixie and Steve Randock, of Colbert. The Randocks and six other defendants pleaded guilty, and there was no trial.

    Dixie Randock was not charged with possession or receipt of child porn. She and her husband are serving three-year federal prison sentences for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.


  • Freehold Twp. High teacher, consultant among group ordered to drop doctoral titles, Joshua Riley, Asbury Park, New Jesey Asbury Park Press, October 24, 2008.


    The state Commission on Higher Education has ordered six more individuals — including a worker at a psychiatric facility, a professor, and two high school teachers — to stop using doctoral titles that the commission deemed void under state law because they were obtained from unaccredited institutions.

    Both educators — English teacher Cheryl A. Lanza of Freehold and teacher consultant Lorraine Taddei-Graef of Lacey — work in the Freehold Township High School in the Freehold Regional High School District.

    The orders were issued earlier this month, but issued publicly Thursday.

    Lanza and Taddei-Graef had obtained doctor of education degrees from the unaccredited Breyer State University, and had used the corresponding Ed.D., or, doctoral titles.

    Freehold Regional Superintendent H. James Wasser, one current and one former administrator had also been ordered to relinquish doctoral titles from Breyer State after Asbury Park Press reports this summer prompted statewide outrage.

    Breyer State had been branded a diploma mill by officials in several states.

    The situation prompted a bill to ban pay raises and benefits issued because of advanced degrees from unaccredited schools. That measure passed the state Senate Thursday.

    "I am appalled that we even need this law," state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, said.

    On Wednesday, New Jersey Association of School Administrators Director Richard G. Bozza requested that all 1,000 members of the organization fully disclose their education by providing, "the communities they serve with complete transparency regarding their educational credentials," Bozza wrote in a prepared statement.

    The Commission on Higher Education investigated the Freehold Regional employees after receiving a citizen complaint.

    Taddei-Graef, Lanza and Freehold Regional Board of Education President Patricia Horvath could not be reached for comment.

    The Press reported in August that district taxpayers reimbursed Lanza $2,050 for her degree, but Taddei-Graef was not reimbursed.

    According to the commission's letters released Thursday, two others received degrees from another apparent diploma mill, Kennedy Western University in Cheyenne, Wyo., now Warren National University.

    Wilhelmina P. D'Dumo, an instructor of psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's school of osteopathic medicine, Cherry Hill, and Edward J. Moskal of Kinnelon, an assistant professor of computer science at St. Peter's College, the Jesuit College of New Jersey based in Jersey City, were both ordered to drop their doctoral titles.

    A doctorate degree is not necessary for D'Dumo's current position, UMDNJ Media Relations Director Gerald Carey said. D'Dumo received her degree while working at UMDNJ, but was not reimbursed nor did she receive a raise based on it, Carey said.

    D'Dumo is also an employee of Lakeland Regional Health Center in Camden County, a psychiatric facility, but no further information was disclosed.

    D'Dumo is listed as a member of the Phillipine Nurses Association of Delaware Valley, Inc. advisory committee, with the academic designations related to being a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, and a Ph.D. in psychology.

    She also has a Master of Science in nursing, which is valid, said Jane Oates, director of the commission.

    D'Dumo did not return calls seeking comment.

    Moskal declined to comment.

    Routinely, the commission searches the Web for possible misuses of academic titles. In doing so, they found D'Dumo and Moskal in violation of state statutes that govern academic titles, Oates said.

    These four responded to the commission's request, writing that they had complied with the order, Oates said, adding that those letters are on file in the commission's office.

    The commission has sent two other letters to people the commission believes have improperly claimed academic titles. Those recipients have not yet responded, Oates said.

    The commission has sent a total of nine cease-and-desist letters since the Asbury Park Press began reporting on the Freehold Regional High School District diploma mill controversy July 17.

    On Aug. 21, letters were sent to Wasser, Assistant Superintendent Donna Evangelista, and former Assistant Superintendent Frank J. Tanzini ordering them to relinquish their doctoral titles, which were obtained from Breyer State University, then located in Alabama, then, briefly, in Idaho, and now in Los Angeles, Calif.

    Freehold Regional paid for the administrators' Breyer State degrees, $2,900 each, and awarded all three additional $2,500 a year, upon obtaining their degrees.

    Wasser complied with the order to relinquish his doctoral title and stopped receiving the accompanying raise. Although he did not pay back tuition payments or the higher pay he received up until that point.

    Later, Wasser publicly apologized at a district board meeting, and the district's Web site,, features a video apology from the superintendent.


  • Troopers put on leave pending phony diploma probe, Scott Gutierrez, Seattle, WA Post-Intelligencer, October 20, 2008.


    Nine state troopers are under investigation over college diplomas they claimed to have earned to get higher pay.

    Six troopers and three sergeants, including one trooper assigned to Seattle, were placed on paid administrative leave last week when the State Patrol launched a criminal investigation, Capt. Jeff DeVere said.

    "We're taking this very seriously. This presents some very serious issues should these allegations be proven true," DeVere said.

    The State Patrol began auditing personnel records last summer after the principals in a Spokane diploma mill scandal were convicted of counterfeiting and selling degrees and transcripts from some of the largest schools in the United States, as well as from 125 phony schools.

    Dixie and Steve Randock, of Colbert, were sentenced to prison. The federal investigation, which lasted several years, uncovered government employees, including members of the National Security Agency and a White House staffer, who purchased fake degrees.

    It was too early to say whether any of the diplomas came from the Spokane company, DeVere said, explaining that he couldn't comment on the specifics of the investigation.

    Four of the troopers, including two sergeants, work in Vancouver. Three are assigned to Wenatchee. One sergeant works in Kelso and another trooper is assigned to Spokane, DeVere said.

    They all have been employed for eight years or more with the agency. Three have been troopers for more than 15 years, DeVere said.

    Under the State Patrol's labor contract, troopers can boost their base pay by 4 percent for earning a bachelor's degree and additional 2 percent for a master's degree. Troopers with a two-year degree are eligible for a 2-percent raise, DeVere said.

    The audit, which is ongoing, raised questions about other troopers' degrees that turned out to be legitimate, he said.

    "In some cases, we found some small, obscure colleges that are indeed valid," DeVere said. "With these, it wasn't readily apparent, so that's why the investigation has started."

    The investigation is focused in some cases on whether troopers put in legitimate course work to earn a degree that would qualify them for the incentive pay, he said.

    "Some of the things you look at online, you can put down your life experiences and pay $500 and you have a diploma," he said. "But there are valid online programs through major institutions. So what we're trying to determine is what type of institution was it and what kind of coursework was it."


  • Arnett facing another investigation: KY. GAVE HIM SURGICAL ASSISTANT LICENSE, Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 13, 2008.


    Stephen J. Arnett, currently under investigation for promoting online and foreign medical schools from Magoffin County, was recently given a license to practice as a surgical assistant in Kentucky.

    The license allows him, while being supervised, to assist surgeons with opening and closing incisions and other procedures during surgery. It is not clear whether Arnett is actually working in that capacity. He indicated to the Board of Medical Licensure that he intended to start a surgical assistants company. Arnett was a key figure in Degrees of Harm, a Herald-Leader series in October, that examined his role in recruiting students to treat patients, study in clinical settings or receive online medical degrees. Three men Arnett was involved with have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license -- one in Kentucky, one in Nevada and one in Rhode Island.

    In the past, Arnett has described himself as having medical degrees and other medical credentials that he did not have. He has been investigated by state and federal authorities, but has never been charged with any crime as a result of his medical activities. He is not licensed as a medical doctor in Kentucky or any other state.

    Kentucky's Board of Medical Licensure denied Arnett a physician's assistant's license in 1988 and warned him not to "hold himself out" as one. The board investigated him in 1997 after a complaint that he was again working as a physician's assistant, but when the board shared the results with law enforcement officials, nothing was done.

    C. Loyd Vest, an attorney for the medical board, said that Arnett was granted a surgical assistant's license in March.

    The board initially approved Arnett's application on its face, Vest said. However, when questioned by a reporter about it recently, he said: "We are now reviewing the information that he provided to get a surgical assistant's license."

    In Kentucky, payments for the work of a certified surgical assistant have recently become reimbursable through third-party insurance.

    Arnett has not responded to several requests by the Herald-Leader for an interview. But in a court deposition from a lawsuit against him that was later dismissed, he said he was always honest about his degrees and that they were all legitimate.

    After the publication of the Herald-Leader series, Kentucky's medical licensure board began investigating how Arnett helped other people get medical degrees.

    Florida clinics

    Why, Vest was asked, was Arnett, who had previously been turned down for a physician's assistant's license, granted a surgical assistant's license?

    The requirements for the two licenses are different, Vest said. More is required of a physician's assistant, who acts as an agent of the supervising physician and is allowed to treat patients and prescribe medication.

    Under Kentucky law, a surgical assistant's license can be obtained if a person is certified by one of several national surgical assistant's groups and completes 800 hours in the three previous years as an assistant in surgical procedures under the direct supervision of a physician licensed in this country.

    Arnett presented documents to the board in January showing he had passed a test given by a national group approved by the board -- the North Carolina-based national Surgical Assistant Association.

    Officials from that organization did not return telephone calls or respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

    Arnett also told the board in his application that he had trained as a surgical assistant at two Florida clinics for 850 hours between 2002 and 2005.

    One of the clinics was the Hallandale Orthopedic and Outpatient Surgical Center in Hallandale, Fla. That facility's current Web site lists it as Orthopedic Rehab of Hallandale Inc. It does not mention surgical procedures, but advertises chiropractic and alternative and natural medicine services.

    A licensed chiropractor on staff at the clinic advertises having a naturopathic degree from St. Luke School of Medicine and Southern Graduate Institute, schools where Arnett once held key titles. Naturopathy involves using only natural elements or the body's own immune system to treat disease.

    The Hallandale clinic's Web site also says that the osteopath is a faculty member at a university in the Caribbean that Arnett once promoted.

    At a second clinic in St. Petersburg, Fla., clinic director Joseph DiStefano said that Arnett observed several hours of surgery and other medical procedures performed by a licensed physician until the clinic stopped performing surgeries more than a year ago, when a staff member retired.

    Arnett's application to the board said he was employed by Kentucky Surgical Arts #2 Ortho-Rehab on James Trimble Boulevard in Paintsville.

    Arnett now maintains an office at 624 James S. Trimble Drive inside the Paintsville Ramada Inn, called Health and Sports Wellness Center. A seal on the door says the center is a member of the American Medical Massage Therapy Association. Services listed include massage therapy, neuromuscular therapy, cellulite treatment, naturopathic/homeopathic remedies and reflexology, as well as homeopathic and natural health products and nutritional consultation -- but not outpatient surgery.

    Arnett is a licensed massage therapist in West Virginia and Kentucky. He has been licensed as a naturopath in Idaho and Washington, D.C., and as an acupuncturist in West Virginia.

    He has also incorporated the Kentucky Association of Surgical Assistant Inc., according to records filed with the Kentucky secretary of state.

    A company at the same address is listed in the Secretary of State's records as ISO-Diagnostics Testing of Kentucky, with Steve Arnette -- the last name spelled with an extra e -- as the organizer and director.

    In addition to looking into Arnett's credentials, Vest said the Kentucky board is also investigating the activities of the businesses which carry Arnett's name in state records.


  • Med schools scrutinized: STEPHEN ARNETT LINKED TO ONLINE, FOREIGN PROGRAMS, Valarie Honeycutt Spears and Lee Mueller, Lexington, KY Herald-Leader, October 13, 2008.


    The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure has opened an investigation into whether a Magoffin County man who promoted online and foreign medical schools has broken any state laws, C. Lloyd Vest, an attorney for the board, said yesterday.

    Stephen J. Arnett, a former tombstone salesman and Free Will Baptist minister, promoted the St. Luke School of Medicine, an online school based in Liberia, from an address in Falcon, a small Magoffin County community, until 2003. He held key titles at the school, including vice president, and helped recruit students and place them in Kentucky hospitals and clinics.

    Vest said board officials decided to launch a new investigation following a three-part series in the Herald-Leader and that the board would turn over any evidence to the appropriate authorities. The state attorney general's office also began investigating Arnett's involvement with the foreign school after a reporter called with questions.

    The articles outlined how three men who have been convicted of practicing medicine without a license -- two in Kentucky and one in Rhode Island -- used their affiliation with St. Luke to treat patients or to study in clinical settings.

    In the 1990s, Arnett owned and ran several Eastern Kentucky clinics.

    State authorities investigated complaints against him, but he has never been criminally charged in connection with his medical activities.

    Now a licensed massage therapist in both Kentucky and West Virginia, Arnett now maintains an office at 624 James S. Trimble Drive, inside the Paintsville Ramada Inn, called Health and Sports Wellness Center.

    A company at the same address is listed in Kentucky Secretary of State records as ISO-Diagnostics Testing of Kentucky with Steve "Arnette" -- the last name spelled with an extra "e" -- as the organizer and director.

    But Arnett is rarely seen in the office, hotel employees said.

    "He comes in once or twice a month, checks his mail, pays his rent and you'll never see him till next time," Frankie Tackett, a desk clerk at the Ramada, said yesterday.

    Filing cabinets and a lighted Tiffany-style lamp on a desk can be seen through the glass door to the office, located just off the hotel lobby. A seal on the door says the center is a member of the American Medical Massage Therapy Association. Services listed include massage therapy, neuromuscular therapy, cellulite treatment, naturopathic/homeopathic remedies and reflexology, as well as homeopathic and natural health products and nutritional consultation.

    A Herald-Leader reporter visited the office three times this week and found the door locked.

    Arnett could not be reached yesterday and has declined the Herald-Leader's repeated requests for interviews.

    Arnett has been licensed as a naturopath in Idaho and Washington, D.C., and as an acupuncturist in West Virginia. Naturopathy involves using only natural elements or the body's own immune system to treat disease.

    St. Luke President Jerroll Dolphin said in a recent interview that he stopped working with Arnett in 2003 and took away an honorary medical degree the school had given him because he thought Arnett was giving degrees without requiring proper course work.

    Though some states have questioned the school's legitimacy, Dolphin said St. Luke offered an intensive curriculum and was not a diploma mill -- a school without accreditation that awards degrees for money and little work.

    Larry Lammers worked in a chain of accident injury centers in Kentucky and served a jail sentence for practicing medicine without a license.

    Court documents show that Arnett recruited him to St. Luke. Lammers completed course work, Dolphin said, but did not receive a medical degree because of his Kentucky conviction.

    Arnett arranged for Andrew E. Michael to observe a heart specialist in Lexington. While in Kentucky, Michael was convicted in Nevada of practicing medicine without a license. He served a jail sentence and is back in custody on federal credit card charges. He never completed his studies at St. Luke, Dolphin said.

    John E. Curran, who was sentenced in August to 12 1/2 years in federal prison in Rhode Island, said Arnett provided him with diplomas in medicine and naturopathy. Dolphin said Curran was never a legitimate St. Luke student.

    There is no agency in Kentucky that oversees online degrees, nor does the state have an office that investigates people accused of practicing medicine without a license.

    But Vest has said the board investigates any allegation it receives and that the attorney general's office can seek an injunction to stop the activity.

    Fake degrees are illegal in Oregon, New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota and Nevada, where they are misdemeanors and punishable by fines. However, violators rarely face prosecution.

    State Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, said that she will, for the fourth time, introduce a bill that would make the use of bogus credentials a Class D felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years.


  • Diploma mill crackdown drives some from state, Adam Jones, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Tuscaloosa News, October 10, 2008.


    What's happened
    Since Alabama has cracked down on questionable for-profit schools,
  • Five institutions have been denied state licenses to open in Alabama
  • Four had licenses revoked
  • 21 did not have licenses renewed
    • One closed

    The new rules aimed at cracking down on questionable private, for-profit schools took effect just over a week ago, and already 30 schools have left Alabama, been kicked out or prohibited from setting up shop.

    According to information released Thursday by the Alabama Community College System, applications for five institutions to come to the state were denied, four had their operating licenses revoked and licenses for 21 schools were not renewed. Also, one school closed.

    State law gives the college system power to grant licenses to Alabama-based private, for-profit institutions, but no staff or money were dedicated to enforcing regulations. Higher education watchdogs decried that method of approval, which they say allowed diploma mills that offer degrees for little or no academic work to set up shop in the state.

    In July, two-year Chancellor Bradley Byrne announced an effort to enforce existing rules, then strengthen oversight with stricter regulations that went into place Oct. 1.

    Out of the 30 schools Byrne's staff have either closed or kept out of the state, only three have come after the new rules took effect. Simply enforcing the old regulations produced results, but Byrne said the new rules will make it easier to find questionable schools.

    "I don't think we're done yet," he said.

    It will probably take at least a year to review the more than 200 private, for-profit schools licensed by the college system, he said.

    Many of the schools left the state before college system staff could revoke their licenses or not renew them.

    "In some cases there are people who saw the handwriting on the wall, but in many cases there was some failure on the part of the institution," Byrne said.

    Gregory Fitch, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, praised Byrne's efforts. Fitch began the drumbeat against the state's lax educational licensing process about two years ago.

    A bill was introduced into the Legislature to transfer the power to review in-state schools from the college system to ACHE, which reviews out-of-state private, non-profit schools. The bill failed to get a vote in the past two sessions, a failure Byrne and Fitch said prompted the college system to take action.

    "He's doing exactly what the state needs him to do," Fitch said of Byrne. "As long as it's being done in the best interest of the state, we're fine with it.

    "It's working, and I think there are going to be some real challenges to these schools to slip through, as least legitimately, into our state."

    It's difficult to say whether all the schools were diploma mills, since some of the stricter code deals with financial viability, such as requiring institutions to provide audited financial statements. Still, Alabama has been marked by many nationwide as a haven for diploma mills and several unaccredited schools on the list that were kicked out of the state such as Chadwick University, Breyer State University, Carter University and Omni University.

    Besides negative actions, Byrne's staff also renewed licenses for 23 schools and approved six more.


    Rejection of New Applications
    • The Queen's University of Brighton, Hamilton, OH (4-23-08)
    • Faith in Action Business Access Online, Hayneville, AL (5-7-08) Withdrawal
    • Southern State University, Birmingham, AL (8-25-08)
    • Madison University of Business & Technology, Gulfport, MS (8-26-08)


    • Paramount University of Technology, Birmingham, AL (9-3-08)


    • Columbus University, Daphne, AL (5-19-08)
    • *Real Estate Institute, Birmingham, AL (5-29-08)
    • Southern Community College, Tuskegee, AL (5-23-08)
    • Chadwick University, Birmingham, AL (8-28-08)


    • Breyer State University-Alabama, Birmingham, AL (6-23-08)
    • *Central Alabama OIC, Montgomery, AL (4-10-08)
    • Carter University, Inc., Dothan, AL (4-11-08)
    • *Gold Coast Professional Schools, Tamarac, FL (4-16-08)
    • *Anvil Property Brokers School of Real Estate, Birmingham, AL (6-5-08)
    • North Alabama Driving Academy, Ft. Payne, AL (6-5-08)
    • Jomil Driving Academy, Huntsville, AL (6-5-08)
    • *Avery Yarbrough & Associates, Eufaula, AL (6-9-08)
    • *JME Real Estate School, Mobile, AL (6-9-08)
    • *ERA Jefferson School of Real Estate, Phenix City, AL (6-9-08)
    • *Alliance Group Real Estate School, Birmingham, AL (6-23-08)
    • *Abana School of Real Estate, Vestavia, AL (6-23-08)
    • *RESCO School of Real Estate, Tuscaloosa, AL (6-23-08)
    • *High-Tech Institute, Nashville, TN (7-3-08)
    • *High-Tech Institute, Orlando, FL (7-3-08)
    • *Holland Jewelry School, Selma, AL (8-6-08)
    • Omniversity, Inc., Mobile, AL (9-10-08)
    • *Tuscaloosa School of Real Estate, Tuscaloosa, AL (9-22-08)
    • *Alabama Real Estate Academy, Inc, Foley, AL (10-7-08)
    • *Realty Now School of Real Estate, Birmingham, AL (10-7-08)
    • *Real Estate Career Institute, Ft. Payne, AL (10-7-08)


    • All American Driving Academy, Decatur, AL (9-01-08)


    * Indicates institutions no longer operating in Alabama.


  • Degrees of deceit: St. Regis ran a truly global scam, Yojana Sharma, South China Morning Post, October 4, 2008.


    It was the largest case of degree fraud in America, perhaps the world. The investigation into St Regis University, a huge degree mill, ended in jail sentences for its "founders" and some employees in July, and has cast light on the lengths to which sellers of dodgy degrees will go to ensnare people in their web of deceit.

    St Regis' tentacles spread around the globe, with clients across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Asia, including Hong Kong.

    "This was an eight-agency federal criminal prosecution, involving more than 100 countries, 66 real universities known to have had their degrees counterfeited and 150 separate bogus institutions set up by the perpetrators," said George Gollin, professor of physics at the University of Illinois. He had been monitoring the degree mill since 2002 and passed on a great deal of information to investigators that led to the convictions.

    "It is the first case of its kind where we have so much information, so we have an extensive profile of how they operated internationally," he said.

    A statement from the US Department of Justice said St Regis' customers included teachers, psychologists, engineers and at least one college president. "Many were shipped abroad. The annual degree output from St Regis was about the same as a medium-sized American university," it said.

    Investigators calculated that the organisers netted at least US$7.3 million from the sales.

    "It was the most sophisticated degree mill because they had 125 different websites of high [secondary] schools, colleges, accredited entities, degree transcript storage and credential evaluation companies," said Allen Ezell, a former FBI agent who has investigated degree mills.

    "We now have a better insight into how big this was and how many sales were in the various countries and the type of degrees in demand."

    According to documents unearthed by federal investigators, some 30 Hong Kong people wittingly or unwittingly acquired fake degrees, although several Hong Kong individuals bought more than one degree in the space of a very short period, suggesting they knew very well what they were doing...

    The annual degree output from St. Regis was about the same as a medium-sized American university...


  • St Regis 'dean' in business : Founders of fraudulent university in jail, HK associate still selling courses, Will Clem, Elaine Yau and Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post, October 4, 2008. (Click here to see the front page of the SCMP edition that ran this article.)


    The man who was "dean of studies" at fraudulent St Regis University is still selling distance learning qualifications in Hong Kong. The US operation was closed following an investigation and its founders were jailed.

    But Steve Ho Kwok-cheong - one-time Asia representative of its business school and St Regis School of Martial Arts - continues to provide online courses up to PhD level from "universities" you have probably never heard of and others which have never heard of him.

    Until this week, Mr Ho's company - ICL Distance Learning Centre - offered online courses from 11 universities in the US, Central America and the Philippines that it claimed to be authorised to recruit or offer distance programmes for, either through affiliation or collaboration. The courses ranged from sub-degree, undergraduate to postgraduate qualifications.

    By yesterday, five of these universities had been removed from ICL website - - following the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) 's investigation into Mr Ho's activities.

    The investigation discovered that at least two were either unlicensed or did not exist, and four genuine universities denied having connections with Mr Ho, ICL or Ho's other company, In-Com Link Management Associates.

    The search for Mr Ho led to Post reporters trawling through virtual miles of cyberspace, making calls across four continents at all hours this week before arriving at two apparently unconnected addresses in Central - an office services centre in World-Wide House and a tiny public accountant's office in Tsim Sha Tsui.

    When a reporter finally made contact with Mr Ho by phone yesterday morning, he said he had done nothing wrong.

    "We just provide the course materials," he said. "As this is pure online learning, with no face-to-face classes, we do not need to register with the Education Bureau."

    He said the majority of his students were not based in Hong Kong.

    However, earlier this week he had been keen to help a Post reporter posing as a customer looking for a fast track to a degree.

    ICL's website describes Mr Ho as an "educational professional" who has "been a full/part-time lecturer for different famous worldwide universities/post-secondary institutes, such as University of Sydney, OUHK, City University (UK), University of Heriot-Watt and University of Wollongong, since 1991."

    Checks at SydneyU, Wollongong, Heriot-Watt and London's CityU revealed none had a record of employing him. Open University was unable to confirm or deny the connection by the time of going to print.

    Mr Ho said the positions had been in Hong Kong - "lecturing" at evening courses run by local companies on the universities' behalf. "I was a lecturer teaching in Hong Kong."

    The website also states Mr Ho has a PhD, although it does not specify where he obtained it.

    The Post investigation discovered it was from York University, Mobile, Alabama - not to be confused with its namesakes in Canada or Britain - which lists Mr Ho as a member of its academic board.

    Inquiries with Alabama authorities confirmed YorkU had no official accreditation and was illegal.

    An application for a licence is pending, but Annette McGrady, the private school licence specialist handling the case, said it was "highly unlikely" to succeed due to concerns about the capacity of their faculty.

    "They have never been licensed in Alabama," she said. The school had also been given a written warning about selling "honorary degrees" to Hong Kong, she said.

    No calls to YorkU - which operates from a lawyer's office - were returned. However, the Post received an e-mail from a "Professor Akiva Fradkin" containing a digital image of a purported official licence. It expired on November 1, 2006.

    Mr Ho confirmed his PhD had been from YorkU but insisted it was a genuine qualification.

    "I had to submit coursework online and it was assessed," he said.

    Mr Ho said being on the academic board meant he could design courses, which could be accredited by YorkU and offered through ICL under the Alabama centre's name.

    "I just care about developing a high-quality, pure online learning course," he said.

    He said the lack of officially recognised accreditation - YorkU is accredited by an unofficial organisation which only accredits similar small private outfits - did not concern him as accreditation was "very personal."

    Mr Ho declined to explain his relationship with the St Regis University scandal, but did not deny involvement.

    He said he did not like St Regis' approach of "just selling" degrees without requiring coursework.

    "At least [my students] have to complete coursework. They can fail and some of them do," he said.


  • Probe of HK centre tied to bogus degrees: Distance learning claims queried, Will Clem, Elaine Yau and Mimi Lau, South China Morning Post, October 4, 2008. (Click here to see the front page of the SCMP edition that ran this article.)


    The Education Bureau has launched an investigation into an online learning portal run from Hong Kong after an investigation by the South China Morning Post linked it to an international web of so-called degree mills and bogus universities.

    ICL Distance Learning Centre, whose enrolment address is in Central, also seems to have been offering online courses from prestigious US universities without their consent.

    The centre's director is Steve Ho Kwok-cheong, of Lai Chi Kok. The ICL's website claimed he had lectured at four overseas universities, but they had no record of having employed him.

    Mr Ho's name has also been connected to the scandal in the US over bogus institution St Regis University. He is listed in court documents related to the prosecution in that case as a "dean of studies" for the St Regis School of Business and the St Regis School of Martial Arts.

    This week, ICL's website - - listed courses from 11 universities in the US, Central America and the Philippines that the centre claimed to be linked to either through affiliation or collaboration. The names of several have since been removed.

    The partner institutions included prestigious names such as Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Mercy College in New York and the University of Washington in Seattle.

    Contacted by a Post reporter, Mr Ho said his business was legitimate.

    However, Post reporters have discovered that one of the universities, York University in Mobile, Alabama, is unlicensed, and another, West Coast University in Panama City, Panama, does not exist. The former's website lists Mr Ho as a member of its academic board.

    Spokesmen for Carnegie Mellon and Mercy College said they were not aware of any connection. A spokeswoman for the University of Washington said: "A unit of University of Washington Education Outreach entered into an agreement with [the centre's parent company] In-Com Link [Management Associates] in April 2003, but their last agreement expired April 6, 2006."

    She said the university had sent a letter demanding ICL "remove all links or references to the University of Washington from its website."

    Mr Ho said he was only acting as a recruiting agent for the universities.

    "I did not say these degrees were accepted in Hong Kong," he said.

    He said the University of Washington's name was left on the site as a result of an oversight. All references to the institution and to York and West Coast universities disappeared from the site yesterday. References to Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology in the Philippines were removed earlier within hours of a Post reporter confirming the university had no connection to ICL.

    A spokeswoman for the Education Bureau said there was no need for schools providing "purely online" courses to register, but the bureau would look into the website. "If there is any evidence that the course information therein is misleading, we shall take action as appropriate."

    Listen to the Podcast Hear Steve Ho Kwok-cheong defend his learning centre and academic qualifications at


  • Veto prolongs lack of oversight of for-profit colleges, Matt Krupnick, Contra Costa Times, October 1, 2008.


    A day after the governor's veto torpedoed three years of discussions about policing the state's 1,600 for-profit and vocational colleges, lawmakers and others were wondering how to protect hundreds of thousands of students at those schools.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday announced he would not sign SB 823, saying the bill failed to "strike a balance between protecting students, while being firm, yet fair to schools." The legislation was confusing and not easily enforceable, he wrote in his veto message.

    The veto disappointed consumer advocates, who had argued the continued lack of oversight could lead fly-by-night diploma mills to relocate to California. The state has been without a watchdog since July 1, 2007, when the Bureau of Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education expired.

    "This is almost like after a natural disaster, when you get all kinds of predatory operators," said Betsy Imholz, an attorney with the Consumers Union and a strident supporter of a new bureau. "We need an alert system before people enter a school."

    The now-defunct bureau was created to gather complaints by students who believed vocational schools had cheated them. A minority of the schools gave the industry a bad reputation by closing unexpectedly without returning tuition money.

    Some schools have been criticized for giving useless degrees and few job prospects to students who paid tens of thousands of dollars.

    Critics said the bill was too tightly controlled by its sponsor, Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland. With his term expiring this winter, new legislative leaders should focus on creating a bill that is concise and not as intent on teaching for-profit operators a lesson, said Robert Johnson, executive director of the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools.

    "I think the governor and his administration have been pretty clear about what they want in a bill," Johnson said. Democrats "are demanding a bill that goes way beyond regulatory measures and punishes the sector.

    "We have to have bipartisan leadership."

    Neither Perata nor his replacement as Senate president pro tem, Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, responded to interview requests Wednesday.

    In his veto message, Schwarzenegger asked the Department of Consumer Affairs to educate students about their rights and to investigate complaints. A department leader said Wednesday her agency has been doing both since the bureau closed.

    "Basically, there haven't been any major issues," said Patty Harris, a deputy director with the Department of Consumer Affairs. "If one arises, we're committed" to dealing with it.


  • Navy résumé doesn't quite hold water: Questionable degrees raise doubts on vetting , Russell Working, Chicago, Illinois Chicago Tribune, October 1, 2008.


    When Vice Adm. Donald Arthur retired as Navy surgeon general, Adm. Mike Mullen—now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—paid tribute to a "Renaissance man."

    "His résumé says a lot," Mullen said. "BA, MA, JD, PhD and of course MD. He's got more degrees than a thermometer."

    It was a stirring testimonial, but not entirely accurate. While Arthur's bachelor's and MD were legitimate, he has no master's. The PhD came from a university whose accreditation the federal government doesn't recognize. And the JD, or law degree, was granted by a diploma mill that collapsed after its president was imprisoned for fraud.

    Nearly two years before Mullen's rousing send-off, an author specializing in military research told his office that Arthur had claimed questionable academic credentials.

    Yet Mullen still made those degrees a centerpiece of his retirement ode to Arthur last year. And those degrees were either entered into Arthur's record or listed in résumés submitted to the U.S. Senate for his promotion up the ranks of admiral and ultimately to surgeon general of the Navy, records show.

    Arthur says he was guilty only of being ill-informed about unaccredited institutions—and that a Navy investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.

    But his history raises questions about how well Pentagon brass and the Senate vet applicants to top military positions as the federal government investigates cases of academic fraud.

    Arthur, who left the Navy and became a hospital executive in Pennsylvania, defended his qualifications to be the service's top doctor. "The only thing I was hired to be surgeon general for was my MD," he said.

    His PhD and JD have since been removed from his official biography but remain in his service record.

    An unaccredited JD and PhD would not be as central to a doctor's promotion as an MD, said retired Rear Adm. John Hutson, the Navy's top uniformed lawyer from 1997 to 2000. But Hutson said the law degree and doctorate would have been factors in Arthur's advancement—particularly in an area like health-care management, the focus of his PhD.

    "He may or may not be promoted without it," Hutson said. "But one, he had it in his record, and two, there's a pretty good argument that he knew or should have known that people would rely on it, not knowing that they were unaccredited degrees."

    Unaccredited institutions range from those whose officials have been prosecuted, like LaSalle University in Mandeville, La., to those like American Century University (formerly Century University) that operate legally but claim accreditation from organizations the U.S. government doesn't recognize.

    Within a 14-month period in 1992-93, Arthur obtained a PhD in health-care management from what is now American Century University in New Mexico and a JD from LaSalle University, according to his Navy record.

    American Century's dean of instruction, Antonin Smrcka, said students work hard for degrees, adding that the institution had Arthur's doctoral thesis on file before it was destroyed as part of a regular records purge.

    But he added: "The U.S. Army or U.S. Navy or U.S. Air Force does not recognize the degree from Century University. ... As a rule, we inform the potential student to speak to his employer [to find out] if his employer would accept the degree."

    LaSalle University is not to be confused with venerable La Salle University in Philadelphia. The LaSalle in Louisiana collapsed after its founder pleaded guilty in 1996 to conspiracy to commit tax evasion and other offenses in a scheme that included the selling of degrees.

    In interviews, Arthur acknowledged that in the early 1990s he took "some courses from two places that are unaccredited." He said LaSalle had given him papers indicating the school had been accredited. "I could say I was naive, but I was 40 years old. And I didn't understand completely what was going on."

    As for the master's, which first appeared in his bio for his 1978 medical school yearbook, Arthur said, "I was in a master's program, but I did not graduate. I do not have a master's degree."

    Arthur has come under criticism from a number of retired Navy officers, including Dr. Benjamin Newman, a veteran of the Navy medical corps who retired this year.

    Newman noted that the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, which Arthur oversaw as surgeon general, scrutinizes a doctor's record every time he is assigned to practice medicine at a new duty station.

    Arthur's "credentials should have been picked up by someone to show that they're not legitimate," said Newman, who has viewed Arthur's records.

    In November 2005, B.G. Burkett, an Army Vietnam veteran who has made a career of exposing military fraud, urged Mullen to investigate Arthur, according to letters provided by Burkett.

    Arthur said he was stunned by Burkett's allegations at the time and welcomed an investigation by the Navy inspector general. Arthur said the investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing, but he declined to give the Tribune a copy of the report.

    The inspector general's office declined to confirm that any investigation occurred, citing confidentiality.

    Asked how unaccredited degrees ended up in Arthur's record, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Jeff Davis said, "I have not seen the record. ... Navy policy and the Navy practice is that we don't introduce degrees that are not from accredited institutions."


  • Diploma mill papers reveal foreign bribe efforts, Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman Review, September 30, 2008.


    Operators of a Spokane-based diploma mill, now in federal prison for wire and mail fraud, were attempting to accredit their bogus online universities by bribing officials in Russia, India and Italy, according to court documents.

    The documents were filed for today's back-to-back sentencings of Amy Hensley, Blake Alan Carlson and Richard J. "Rick" Novak, who were indicted in October 2005 along with Dixie and Steven Randock, the masterminds of the mill.

    Immediately after search warrants were carried out in three states in August 2005, Hensley, Carlson and Novak independently began cooperating with state and federal investigators involved in "Operation Gold Seal" in the hopes of getting lighter sentences, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Jacobs said at the sentencing hearings.

    With cooperation from a fourth defendant, the U.S. Attorney's Office had lined up half of the eight defendants indicted in the case as prosecution witnesses. Ultimately, the four remaining defendants, including the Randocks, also pleaded guilty earlier this year, and there was no trial.

    Some of the evidence in the case, however, has been attached to sentencing memorandums filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

    Those documents reveal the Randocks paid $100,000 to an unidentified official in India, hoping to get that country to provide "accreditation" for their online schools – an apparent attempt to help legitimize the operation as similar accreditation in Liberia began to fall apart.

    Novak went to India at Steve Randock's direction at some point after the Indian official took the money but then failed to provide any accreditation, the documents say.

    Dixie Randock, meanwhile, was developing an affiliation with the Russian Education Ministry in the weeks before her arrest, the documents say, and had established an "Italian connection" in Sebora, Italy.

    In exchange for their "substantial assistance" to the government, Hensley, Carlson and Novak were placed on three years probation today by U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. The judge also ordered Hensley and Carlson to perform 240 hours of community service and Novak to perform 300 hours of service. While noting their cooperation, the federal prosecutor urged the court to send Hensley, Carlson and Novak to prison for up to a year.

    The judge told the defendants the assistance they provided to prosecutors saved them from prison terms. The three detailed the inner workings of the diploma mill, which hauled in almost $8 million, and a series of bank accounts set up by the Randocks, including some offshore.

    Suko said the probationary sentences he gave the three were appropriate to avoid "unwarranted disparity" with three-year terms given the Randocks, the one-year term given Heidi Kay Lohran and the four-month sentence handed to Roberta Markishtum.

    Novak, 58, of Phoenix, took thousands of dollars from the Randocks and used it to pay cash bribes to senior Liberian officials who used their country's board of education to provide accreditation to more than 100 online high schools and universities set up by the Spokane diploma mill.

    Novak traveled to Maryland and Washington, D.C., with the Randocks, who instructed him to deliver the bribes to Liberian officials. Novak also went to Liberia and Ghana to make other payments. He was paid $60,000 for being the Randocks' "emissary" with foreign government officials, Jacobs told the court.

    Carlson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing foreign officials. Hensley and Carlson pleaded guilty to conspiracy counts.

    Carlson, 61, who owns a Hillyard printing shop, sold bogus degree stamps and diploma seals to the Randocks before working as an online adviser, using the alias "C.B. Blackwell." Hensley, 41, worked as an adviser, shipper and bookkeeper for the Randocks' diploma mill and made $90,000 after initially working for Dixie Randock's real estate school, A+ Institute.

    Carlson also accompanied the Randocks to Detroit, where the trio sold "several degrees" to members of the United Auto Workers.

    "I believe in integrity and honesty," Carlson said, also telling the court he's a deeply committed Christian who has attended the same church for 25 years.

    "I was stupid," he told the judge. "Once I realized Dixie's business was a fraud, I was well over my head at that point." Carlson made $41,000 for his role in the scheme.

    The documents also disclose that one of the 10,000 people around the world who bought degrees from the Spokane diploma mill was an ambassador in Asia, whose identity isn't provided in the documents.

    Asked about that outside court today, Carlson said he couldn't remember any of those details.


  • Vervalste accreditatie voor CMU, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles Amigoe, September 25, 2008.


    Vervalste accreditatie voor CMU
    25 Sep, 2008, 17:20 (GMT -04:00)

    WILLEMSTAD - Onderwijs-minister Omayra Leeflang (PAR) zal naar het Openbaar Ministerie stappen naar aanleiding van een vervalste brief waarin staat dat de Caribbean Medical University (CMU) door de Antilliaanse regering wordt erkend. Volgens Leeflang kunnen medische scholen niet door de Antilliaanse regering worden erkend.

    De bewuste brief is op de 15e van deze maand verstuurd aan Carol Bode, senior research analyst van de International Medical Education Directory. De brief bevat tal van onjuistheden. Hij zou verstuurd zijn door de Antilliaanse regering, maar het wapen van de Antillen telt zes in plaats van de gebruikelijke vijf sterretjes. Aan de andere kant stelt de briefopsteller dat de brief namens de 'government of Curaçao' zou zijn verstuurd. De handtekening onder aan de brief is onleesbaar, maar onder deze handtekening staat niet zoals gebruikelijk de naam van de ondertekenaar, maar louter 'the departement of education of the Netherlands Antilles'.

    Leeflang kon er gisteren tijdens de wekelijkse persconferentie van de Raad van Ministers niet over uit hoe brutaal degenen zijn die de brief hebben vervalst. "Medische scholen kunnen niet door de Antilliaanse regering worden erkend. Ze zijn vrij om zich hier te vestigen. Wij hebben hier vrijheid van onderwijs. Het enige wat ze nodig hebben is een vestigingsvergunning. Ze vallen niet onder de onderwijswetgeving en worden niet erkend. Zij dienen zelf te zorgen voor hun erkenning. Dit kan via een universiteit in de Verenigde Staten, Europa of een andere instelling."

    De minister benadrukt dat sinds haar aantreden in 2006 medische scholen geen erkenning meer krijgen. Sindsdien staat zij en haar ambtenaren onder continue druk van lobbyisten en vertegenwoordigers van medische scholen die toch een erkenning van de Antilliaanse regering willen. "Maar dit kan gewoonweg niet. Ze vallen niet onder ons onderwijssysteem. Conform onze wetten kunnen wij ze niet erkennen. Blijkbaar kunnen mensen niet hiermee leven en is er besloten tot het vervalsen van officiële documenten over te gaan."

    Leeflang kondigde aan deze zaak grondig te gaan onderzoeken en dat zij hiermee ook naar het OM zal stappen.

    Here is a translation sent to me by a Netherlands higher education official:


    Forged accreditation for CMU
    September 25, 2008, 17:20 (GMT -04:00)

    WILLEMSTAD - Minister of Education Omayra Leeflang (PAR) will contact the Attorney General because of a forged letter that states that the Caribbean Medical University (CMU) would be recoignized by the Antillean government. Minister Leeflang holds that medical schools can not be recognized by the Antillean government.

    The letter was sent on September 15 to Carol Bode, senior research analyst at IMED. The letter contains numerous mistakes. Apparently, it would have been sent by the Antillean government, but the Antillean coat of arms [in the letter] contains six instead of five starlets. At the same time, the author of the letter states that it would have been sent by "the government of Curacao." The signature at the bottom of the letter is illegible, moreover, contrary to custom, the name of the signatory is not mentioned underneath the signature. Instead, the letter is signed by "The Department of Education of the Netherlands Antilles."

    During the weekly government press conference, minister Leeflang went ballistic about the brutality of the forgers. "The Antillean government can not recognize medical schools. They are free to set up shop here, since we have freedom of education. The only thing that is required is a business licence. They are outside Antillean educational legislature and are not recognized. It is their own responsibility to secure recognition, be it through an US based or European based university or through other organisations."

    The minister emphasizes that medical schools no longer get recognition since 2006, when she took office. From that time on, she and her staff are continuously pressurized by lobbyists and representatives of the medical schools to grant recognition. "But that is simply impossible. They are not part of our system of education. Based on our legislation, there's no way that we can recognize them. Apparently, this is not to the liking of some people, and the decision was taken to forge official documents."

    Leeflang announces a thorough review of the case and also announces that she will contact the Attorney General.


  • Preston Uni a degree mill? ST stands by story; responds to Preston advertisment., Singapore Straits Times, September 5, 2008.


    THE Straits Times on Friday made it clear that it was not about to apologise to Preston University for telling its readers the truth about its credentials - or rather, its lack of.

    Said Editor Han Fook Kwang: 'We stand by our story and am satisfied that our journalist was accurate in her reporting of Preston University'.

    In newspaper advertisements it took out on Friday, Preston University Chancellor Dr Jerry Haenisch confirmed that the university had no accreditation from any US Department of Education body - 'but, a degree mill, absolutely not'.

    It did not apply for accreditation, he said, as 'the restrictive nature of the US accreditation system precludes widespread international operations'.

    The term - degree or diploma mill - has been used by United States government bodies and newspapers round the world to refer to 'substandard or fraudulent colleges' that offer potential students degrees with little or no serious work.

    They range from those which are simple frauds: a mailbox to which people send money in exchange for paper that purports to be a college degree to those that require some nominal work from the student but do not require college-level course work that is normally required for a degree.

    Preston was taking issue with an ST article by journalist Sandra Davie, headlined 'At least 218 here have off-the-shelf degrees' on Aug 29. She reported that Preston University was an unaccredited institution and dubbed a degree mill in the US.

    Two Singaporeans who graduated from the university were also named, including an options trading expert who said he submitted a thesis and was granted a doctorate within 16 months. He paid $18,000 in fees.

    Ms Davie said on Friday her report was backed up by checks with accreditation boards, the highly-regarded US-based Chronicle of Education as well as American newspaper reports.

    Oregon State's office of degree authorisation has Preston described as a 'degree supplier' in its database.

    The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board also lists Preston as one of the institutions that offer 'fraudulent or substandard degrees'.

    In 2001, the Chronicle reported that Preston University, then based in Wyoming, had invented more than half of its faculty list. The university later admitted that only 15 of the 49 faculty member's listed on the institution's website actively teach its students or serve as mentors.

    Last year, US media reports said Preston University was forced to move its operations to Alabama because of the crackdown of diploma mills in Wyoming state.

    Further checks by ST turned up a commentary in May this year that appeared in the Chronicle.

    Mr Alan Contreras, director of Oregon state's office of degree authorisation had this to say about Preston setting up a campus in Finland: 'Who would bother to establish a substandard-degree provider in the depths of Finland?'

    'The Americans who own Preston University would. That unaccredited supplier was flushed out of Wyoming and has gone to ground in Alabama, from where it has established what I will generously call a relationship with a Finnish degree supplier called Firelake University, which doesn't appear on lists of genuine Finnish colleges.'

    'Preston operates all over the world from its base in Alabama, which has the worst degree-programme oversight in the United States.'

    ST's checks found more details about its 'base' in Alabama.

    In July, Dr Haenisch reportedly admitted to a newspaper that Preston is a distance-learning operation in the US, without a physical campus.

    Ms Davie also noted that Ms Karen Kaylor, director of the United States Education Information Center in Singapore, had written to ST's Forum Page, urging parents and students to apply only to accredited institutions in the US to ensure that the degree earned is deemed valid and legitimate worldwide.

    In her letter published on Thursday, Ms Kaylor noted that 'nearly all colleges and universities' would apply voluntarily for accreditation to establish their status.

    'Accreditation, a process of peer review, is usually seen as the key to determining whether a degree program meets generally recognised academic, fiscal and structural standards,' she added.

    Contacted on Friday, Mr Richard O'Rourke regional coordinator of Education USA disputed Preston's claim that being an accredited university would limit its expansion abroad.

    He noted that more accredited US institutions were setting up campuses or offering their programmes overseas. In Singapore alone, there are at least six such universities here, including Cornell University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University.

    The Straits Times contacted the Centre for Professional Studies which placed the newspaper ads.

    One of its directors, Dr Juergen Rudolph, said the centre, which is registered as a private school with the Education Ministry, used to offer Preston University courses.

    The ad was placed as a 'gesture of goodwill' to Preston University graduates here, some of whom contributed to the costs of the ad.


  • Disputed degrees spur state changes, John Mooney, New Jersey Star-Ledger, September 4, 2008.


    Three Freehold Regional school administrators who gained advanced degrees from a suspected "diploma mill" were ordered by the state yesterday to remove the degrees from their titles, while the state also alerted all districts to the laws against using such institutions.

    The state Commission on Higher Education sent the "cease-and-desist" letters to Freehold Superintendent James Wasser and two of his assistants who had gained doctorates from Breyer State University, an online program that had at least twice lost its certification.

    The degrees had allowed the three administrators to gain raises under their contracts, as well as tuition reimbursements. Whether they would have to return the money was unclear, but they were ordered to remove any credit of the doctorates from their official titles, such as the appendices of "Dr." or "EdD."

    In addition, state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy sent letters to every district reminding educators of the state's existing laws barring the use of unaccredited schools to gain certification or other advancement.


  • Last Day of California Legislature Session Ends With Passage of Major Bills—But No Budget as Republicans Reject Appeals From Governor of Their Own Party and Democrats, Frank Russo, California Progressive Report, September 1, 2008.

  is a rundown of some of the major legislation that passed yesterday and will be landing on the Governor's desk later this month:

    ...SB 823 (Perata): To prevent "diploma mill" abuses by private post secondary education and vocational education for which state oversight and regulation has lapsed.

    The California Assembly passed the bill in late August.


  • Alabama education officials cracking down on Internet colleges: Chancellor Byrne says targets 'not real schools', T. spencer, Birmingham, Alabama The Birmingham News, September 2, 2008.


    Alabama education officials are cracking down on the exploding market for Internet courses and degrees and have taken action against four unaccredited Birmingham-based online colleges.

    "These are not real schools and are operating in ways that are not in the best interest of their students," said Lynn Thrower, the associate general counsel assigned by Bradley Byrne, chancellor of the state Department of Postsecondary Education, to ramp up enforcement.

    Last week, Chadwick University, which operates out of an office building on Magnolia Avenue near Five Points South, was notified its license to offer degrees had been revoked. The department also denied applications to operate online schools from Southern State University and Paramount University of Technology, which listed their headquarters in Birmingham but were found to have nothing but mailboxes in the city.

    Madison University of Business and Technology withdrew its application after failing to meet requirements, department officials said.

    Alabama had become a haven for questionable online operations, which have exploded in recent years thanks to the ease of creating virtual schools on the Web, department officials said. The online for-profit businesses offer a vast array of degrees, from hypnotherapy to doctorates in economics.

    Several schools set up shop in Alabama to market degrees to consumers nationally and internationally. Until Byrne assigned full-time staff to aggressively enforce regulations, the department simply was processing applications from the schools.

    "It obviously did not get much priority from the previous chancellor," Byrne said, referring to Roy Johnson. "We had not done the job we should have. Now, we are exercising much more proactive oversight."

    Byrne said legitimate providers of online education fill an important role in society, but he said the so-called diploma mills can victimize consumers, businesses and legitimate schools.

    People often are induced to sign up for large student loans, Byrne said, but once the money is paid to the school, the students don't receive the degree or certification promised.

    Some operators offer degrees in exchange for cash, requiring little or no course work. The degrees are marketed in the United States but are also heavily marketed abroad, in Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East, where there is a premium on an American degree.

    Businesses duped:

    In some cases, customers sign up with the online companies, pay thousands of dollars in tuition, buy books and complete assignments, only to find out later that their degrees are worthless. In general, degrees for the unaccredited schools aren't recognized by other schools or by employers.

    But governments and businesses are sometimes duped into reimbursing students for their tuition, and sometimes the phony degrees are used to get raises and promotions.

    In 10 states, it is illegal to use an unaccredited degree as a credential when seeking a job or promoting yourself professionally. Alabama is not among those states.

    "I think it is important to protect the consumers in Alabama," Byrne said.

    A first round of enforcement actions, announced in July, closed the books on 18 private institutions, including Birmingham-based Breyer State University.

    Breyer State degrees have been at the center of several controversies across the country. In August, three New Jersey educators were found to have received $10,750 in reimbursement from their employers for unaccredited degrees from Breyer, which allowed them to get $2,500-a-year raises.

    Thrower, who has headed the Postsecondary Department's crackdown, said more action is on the way. New rules, effective Oct. 1, will require that schools seeking a license to issue degrees in Alabama have, or be actively pursuing, accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Chadwick started 18 years ago with educational programs by mail. It has never sought accreditation.

    It was founded by Lloyd Clayton, who also founded Clayton College of Natural Health, another long-running unaccredited college that is on watch lists of unaccredited schools maintained by several states. Clayton College remains in business.

    Chadwick University, until recently, had a virtual campus pictured on its Web site, through which students could navigate to campus buildings housing different departments. The school offered degrees in business, criminal justice and social and behavioral sciences. Now the Web site simply lists contact information.

    Thrower said that among many violations the department found, Chadwick did not have the required $20,000 bond that would pay refunds to students if the school failed, and it did not provide the department with educational credentials of its faculty.

    'Not a diploma mill':

    In response to questions from The Birmingham News, Chadwick officials said the school is not a diploma mill. Chadwick chose not to seek accreditation and was not required to, they said.

    "It is absolutely clear that Chadwick is not a diploma mill as Chadwick does not offer degrees for a fee and has always required very substantial work from its students," school officials said in an e-mailed statement.

    But a 2004 investigation by the General Accounting Office, now the Government Accountability Office, raised questions about Chadwick. The GAO report found that a manager at the National Nuclear Security Administration received a bachelor's degree in 1992 from Chadwick but never attended classes and obtained his degree based on 30 credits for life experience, plus several college-level examination program tests and nine correspondence courses. The employee reported to GAO investigators that he read a book, wrote a paper and took a final exam for each of the nine courses.

    In its statement, the school said that it has not accepted new students since 2002 and has 48 students who are finishing their course work. The school said it planned to end its operation by March 2009. With its license revoked, Chadwick cannot offer degrees, Thrower said, and any student promised one should be due a refund.

    Can't give credentials:

    On Aug. 14, a postsecondary investigator went to two listed addresses in Birmingham for Southern State University, one at Chase Corporate Center and the other a "virtual office space" - 4000 Eagle Point Corporate Drive - but neither office was staffed or had any equipment. The president's address is in West Covina, Calif.

    "You get there, and it is nothing," Thrower said. "No sign of anything. It's just a maildrop."

    In correspondence with the department, the school was unable to provide proper financial statements, a description of the educational backgrounds of its instructors or a curriculum that was consistent with accepted standards for universities.

    Madison University of Business and Technology withdrew its application after the Alabama Commission on Higher Education declined to approve its education program plan. Though the school lists a Birmingham address, its correspondence is directed to the school president's address in Gulfport, Miss. "We have asked them to cease soliciting students," Thrower said.

    An application by Paramount University, which also has no physical office, was rejected after the school failed to offer evidence it was seeking accreditation.

    "They were not able to meet the most rudimentary requirements," Thrower said. "Clearly, they were just not knowledgeable about how to operate a school."

    Report cards start Jan. 1:

    Alan Contreras, administrator of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, has been a vocal critic of the practices of unaccredited colleges and degree mills. Alabama, he said, had earned a reputation as one of the "seven sorry sisters," states that had lax oversight of the industry. He is pleased with Alabama's new attitude.

    "It is really good to see," Contreras said. "A lot of people around the country and around the world are watching what they do."

    Tougher enforcement in several states has online operations scrambling to find a place to operate, with many fleeing to California, which let its law on licensing for-profit universities lapse, Contreras said. That's where Breyer State now claims to be based.

    Thrower said the Department of Postsecondary Education has developed an annual report card system for both public two-year colleges and private colleges licensed by the department.

    Beginning Jan. 1, consumers will be able to go to the department's Web site and check into a school's accreditation, costs, graduation rates and courses offered. "They will have this information that they will be able to use to make an informed decision," Thrower said.

    "This is not a witch hunt," she said. "We are trying to move private, for-profit education in a positive direction and close down the diploma mills that give other schools a bad name."


  • Inquiry Into Higher-Education Group Reveals Odd Connections, Tom Bartlett, Washington D.C. The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 25, 2008.


    The American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation began in 1870. Or so says its Web site.

    But that claim, along with a number of others, falls apart on close inspection. For example, though it lists a Washington, D.C., location, that address turns out to be a UPS mailbox. Its actual headquarters are in Central Florida.

    Most significantly, AAHEA has assumed the identity of a now-defunct organization with a similar name—the American Association for Higher Education. It has even acquired AAHE's old phone number. That comes as an unpleasant surprise to AAHE's former leadership, including Michael B. Goldstein, a higher-education lawyer with the Washington law firm Dow Lohnes, and a former member of AAHE's board. "Some of their activities appear, on their face, to be clearly unacceptable," he said.

    What are those activities? AAHEA's Web site says the group is "dedicated to the advancement of higher education." However, its only stated goal for 2008 is dealing with "the problem of bullying in school." Under the heading "Sponsored Programs," a collage of photographs features the twin towers of the World Trade Center in flames, and what appear to be bloody footprints. Beneath it are the words "To be announced."

    A Chronicle investigation has raised questions about AAHEA, which advertises itself as both a scholarly research organization and a college accreditor. It has also led to the resignation of Charles Grant, the group's chief executive, after just a week in office.

    The apparent operator of AAHEA is D.A. (Doc) Brady. While his name is nowhere to be found on AAHEA's Web site, he is listed in the corporate records for AAHEA, filed with the State of Florida in 2007.

    In several interviews and e-mail exchanges, Mr. Brady defended his organization against critics he contends are biased against him. He said he and his colleagues were motivated solely by the personal satisfaction of running AAHEA, not by any monetary considerations. "Not a single person has benefited a nickel out of this thing," said Mr. Brady.

    It's not for lack of trying. The association offers annual memberships for $99, and its Web site includes a page for visitors to make donations, ranging from $10 to $1-million (those who give the top amount become honorary presidents of AAHEA). Among the programs in the works, which the money will support, according to the Web site, are safari trips to Africa, online art shows, and a "Learning Course of the month contest."

    Fuzzy Details

    When asked about his background, Mr. Brady said it's "none of your business." An online biography describes him as self-taught, but also says he holds doctorates in clinical hypnotherapy and business administration, though it does not mention the institutions from which he graduated. According to the bio, he has worked as a consultant for television programs, including Dr. Phil, and is a "nationally certified motivational instructor."

    Mr. Brady is the chief executive of the National Board of Professional and Ethical Standards, which offers doctorates in clinical hypnotherapy, among other degrees. The doctoral program costs $4,998 and uses the Ericksonian method of hypnosis. According to its frequently-asked-questions page, the organization is under review for accreditation from Mr. Brady's other organization, AAHEA, which it notes is "very old."

    Charles Grant said he responded to an advertisement for the position of chief executive of the group. Mr. Grant had just retired from San Jacinto College North, a community college in Houston, after 25 years. He started there as an instructor and ended as its president. The idea of helping a higher-education organization like the association, he said, appealed to him. "I'm a sympathetic person," said Mr. Grant.

    When pressed, Mr. Grant said he had no idea how many members the group had, or what exactly it did. Nor had he ever met Doc Brady in person, or anyone else from the organization. He didn't know its financial state or where it was located. He was also not aware of Mr. Brady's other organizations.

    Mr. Grant said that he had not received any money from AAHEA, but that he had been told he would receive a salary. A few days after his interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Grant sent an e-mail message to AAHEA with the subject line "Not Working," resigning from the position, and forwarded a copy to The Chronicle.

    Connection Disputed

    All along, AAHEA has claimed that it is the same entity as the American Association for Higher Education. In fact, AAHE, which promoted the scholarship of teaching and learning for nearly four decades, closed its doors in 2005 after a sharp decline in membership.

    Its president at the time was Clara M. Lovett. Ms. Lovett, who is president emerita of Northern Arizona University, said she had never heard of AAHEA. Neither had Mr. Goldstein, the AAHE board member. Both disputed the notion that AAHEA is in any way the continuation of AAHE.

    Other assertions by Mr. Brady have also been contradicted. For example, he said that the archives of AAHE, housed at the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University, are scheduled to be transferred to AAHEA's headquarters once there is sufficient space.

    Not so, according to Brad Bauer, associate archivist for collection development and curator of the Western European collections at Hoover. Mr. Bauer, who is in charge of the AAHE archives, said he had heard "nothing of the sort" and that any such transfer would be extremely unusual. "I've had no discussions of any sort with any organization claiming to be the successor to AAHE," he said.

    Mr. Brady has also said that his organization is going through the review process to become an approved college accreditor. Jane Glickman, an Education Department spokeswoman, said that a check revealed that the department had had no contact with AAHEA. Jan Riggs, director of membership services and special projects for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, said she had been contacted by Mr. Brady but that she "had no idea what he was talking about."

    In response, Mr. Brady criticized the approval process for accreditors, saying it was too cumbersome. "I think it's retarded," he said. In an e-mail message, he indicated that his association may be reconsidering becoming an approved accreditor because it's "not worth all of this aggravation."

    It is unclear how many members AAHEA has signed up, or whether the group has received donations. Michael F. Healy, who works in the marketing and communications department at the University of Georgia's Center for Continuing Education, said he contacted AAHEA recently because he was interested in purchasing its mailing list. He was told that he must become a member first. A colleague at another university, Mr. Healy said, paid the association $1,000 for its mailing list. He declined to name the colleague.

    Along with its other problems, AAHEA appears to have borrowed material on its Web site without attribution. In June a law firm working for the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training—an accreditor recognized by the Education Department—sent the association a letter demanding that it remove documents it had copied directly from ACCET's Web site. In some cases, the documents still had the continuing education and training group's name in the text.

    AAHEA did not respond, according to Roger J. Williams, executive director of ACCET, until this week, when the documents were taken down. In an e-mail message, Mr. Brady wrote that the documents had not been copyrighted and that the material was not taken verbatim.

    When informed that Mr. Brady had accused him of unfairly attacking AAHEA, Mr. Williams was unable to suppress his laughter. "I find their indignation surprising, to say the least," he said.


  • Hospital candidate runs firm that has had a tangled past: Transcript evaluator admitted violation of copyright law, David Gulliver, Sarasota, Florida Herald Tribune, August 23, 2008.


    Jean-Noel Prade has stood out as the outspoken reformer candidate for the Sarasota Memorial Hospital board, calling on the hospital's president to defer her raise and opposing the hospital's Manatee County expansion.

    But he has received attention far longer, and from far beyond Sarasota, for running a company that admitted in federal court to violating federal copyright law, and for links to universities that some experts have labeled as diploma mills.

    Prade, 61, is chairman of American Universities Admission Program, a company that since 1995 has primarily assisted foreign students hoping to attend graduate school in the United States.

    He agrees that his firm violated trademark law, but vehemently disputes any association with diploma mills, so named for how they churn out academic credentials.

    Firms like AUAP, generally known as credentials evaluators, review foreign academic transcripts and tell American colleges how that work compares to their course work. Prade said he created the company when his French-born son was planning to apply to American colleges. AUAP employs about a dozen evaluators around the country, Prade said.

    AUAP and Prade were sued in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in January 2006 by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers for infringing on its trademark. The association claimed that AUAP used the registrars' logo on its Web site without authorization.

    "We were concerned that our logo was being used to mislead institutions, that AUAP's evaluations were being confused as ours," said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of AACRAO, the registrars' group.

    In April 2006, the two sides reached a settlement through a consent judgement and injunction. In it, Prade agreed that he and AUAP had illegally used the AACRAO logo to deceive consumers and falsely claim affiliation with the registrar's group.

    "I don't consider it, myself, that I violated trademark law," Prade said. "I violated it without knowing it."

    The lawsuit was a civil case, not a criminal case, so he does not consider it violating a law, he said.

    But the case dragged on for another 15 months. The parties returned to court when the registrars said AUAP had not complied with the agreement and sought a fine and other penalties.

    In October, U.S. Magistrate Judge Alan Kay agreed that Prade and AUAP had violated the agreement, but gave them another month to comply.

    In subsequent hearings, Kay found that AUAP and Prade complied with the agreement, and the judge denied the registrars' request for penalties and an ongoing inspection program. By legal precedent, fines are appropriate only in the most egregious cases, he wrote.

    Both sides claimed victory.

    "The result is, the claim was denied," Prade said. The judge's rejection of any monetary penalties vindicates AUAP, he said.

    Nassirian said the court forced AUAP and Prade to stop using AACRAO trademarks, so his group got almost everything it wanted. "I am not satisfied with the magistrate's decision, because I think organizations like this do a lot of damage," Nassirian said.

    After the ruling, the registrars' group issued a statement titled "AACRAO wins lawsuit against diploma mill." Nassirian said the title stemmed from his group's research into AUAP's business relationships.

    Alan Contreras, who heads Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization, said Prade and AUAP are tied to a French business that has operated under variations of the name "Robert de Sorbon," not to be confused with the prestigious French university known as The Sorbonne. George D. Gollin, a professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and member of the [board of directors of the] Council for Higher Education Accreditation, researched the ownership of various Robert de Sorbon Web sites and linked them to Prade and AUAP.

    On its current Web site, Ecole Superieure Robert de Sorbon describes itself as a class of accredited institution that under French law can award degrees based on life experience. It says applicants pay a fee of about $75 and, if accepted, pay a tuition of about $750. A panel of scholars evaluates the applicant's work history and grants a degree 60 days later.

    Old versions of the Web site, from 2004, are for a Universite Robert de Sorbon and list AUAP's mailing address as the "US representative" for admissions. An Internet registry search shows a Dr. Jean Noel Prade, at the candidate's Sarasota home address, as the official contact for the Web site in April 2004.

    Prade said Universite Robert de Sorbon no longer exists and that he and AUAP are not affiliated with it. Of Ecole Superieure Robert de Sorbon, he said, "It is an institution of higher learning."

    The new Ecole Superieure Web site was registered via a third-party company, which masks the Web site's owners.

    Nancy Katz, a board member for the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, said members of her group would not treat the Robert de Sorbon entities as a regionally accredited university.

    Prade also is listed as the registrant for the Saint Augustin University Web site. Older versions of the site describe the entity as a degree-granting institution, but the current version says it is only a credential evaluation service. Property records show Prade as the owner of its Englewood street address. Prade said he set it up for a friend.


  • Shameful diploma scam, Editorial, New Jersey Star-Ledger, August 25, 2008.


    No explanation, no excuse, no logical reason can be found to even attempt to justify what has happened in the Freehold Regional School District where top school officials got degrees from a university that has been described as a "diploma mill."

    Adding insult to injury, the officials were reimbursed with taxpayer money for the tuition and then given higher salaries because they obtained ad vanced degrees.

    What superintendent H. James Wasser, assistant superintendent Donna Evangelista and retired assistant superintendent Frank Tanzini did was an absolute ripoff of the district. At least one member of the school board is asking them to return the money.

    We're not sure that's enough of a mea culpa. If their students pulled this sort stunt, they would likely be punished harshly.

    According to a story first reported by the Asbury Park Press, Wasser, Evangelista and Tanzini received degrees from Breyer State University -- a school that offers courses on line and has been described by officials in more than one state as "an apparent diploma mill." The website of the so-called distance university notes that is not accredited by an agency approved by the federal Education Department.

    The Freehold district paid $8,700 in tuition for the educators and gave each of them $2,500 annual raises based on their having obtained doctoral degrees.

    Since the charade was uncovered, there has been a lot of fingerpointing. The state Education Department has contended that it is up to local officials to make sure staff members have the appropriate credentials from a school accredited by the federal government. Others have said the state Education Department needs to do a better job of regulating these employees.

    All those things are true, but the bigger scandal is that educators, who know better, engaged in this kind of decep tion. These are the people who are supposed to set the educational gold standard for the community. They are sup posed to be role models for children.

    State Senate President Richard Codey said he'll introduce legislation to stop this insanity. Education Commissioner Lucille Davy is also planning regulations to guard against a recurrence. Both are appropriate responses.

    Still, one has to ask about the integrity of the school officials who did this. Why would it be necessary for a district to tell a top educator that a degree from a diploma mill simply won't cut it? It's akin to writing in the parents' handbook, "Don't lock your child in a dark basement." Shouldn't some things be obvious?


  • N.J. educators free to use diploma mills: Taxpayers foot the bill for tuition , Alan Guenther, New Jersey, Gannett New Jersey, August 17, 2008.


    Psst . . . Wanna buy a degree from a diploma mill and stick taxpayers with the bill?

    If you're a public school educator, New Jersey won't stop you.

    State Education Commissioner Lucille Davy said she is powerless to prevent local school boards from handing out tax money to administrators who boost their pay by obtaining degrees with little or no academic value.

    When it issued a nine-page report last week, the department entered a growing national controversy about the value of online degrees. But instead of announcing tough new standards, the department made only a few suggestions.

    "I feel sorry for New Jersey. Here they had an opportunity to step up to the plate, and they opted not to," said former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who investigated diploma mill fraud for 11 years, then wrote three books on the subject. "I would have thought New Jersey would have had a little more brass than that."

    Freehold Regional High School District became the epicenter of the diploma mill controversy in New Jersey when the superintendent and two top administrators obtained degrees from an online school that has been deemed an "apparent diploma mill" by Alabama officials.

    After completing an investigation into the administrators' degrees, the education department's report stated there was "no sustainable evidence" that the administrators "possessed the prerequisite intent to deceive when they obtained the degrees" from Breyer State University, which has been chased out of two states and an African country.

    The education department report suggested — but did not require — that high school administrators, in the future, earn college degrees from reputable, accredited schools.

    None of the three administrators investigated — Superintendent H. James Wasser, Assistant Superintendent Donna Evangelista and recently retired Assistant Superintendent Frank Tanzini — was required to pay back the $10,750 they received in taxpayer money to obtain degrees from Breyer State.

    The board gave raises — $2,500 each per year — for their advanced degrees.

    Breyer has been booted out of Idaho, Alabama and the African nation of Liberia.

    "Breyer State is a diploma mill. There's no question about it," said Alan Contreras of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization. "It's obviously a waste of taxpayers' money."

    But Education Commissioner Davy said local school boards must write contracts and pay benefits that make sense for taxpayers.

    "It is wrong for people to use those diploma mill degrees to increase their salaries," she said. "But I don't have the authority to stop them."

    More of the same

    On the same day New Jersey issued its report, the Asbury Park Press discovered three more educators who earned what experts say are bogus degrees.

    Freehold Regional employees Cheryl Lanza, an English teacher, and Lorraine Taddei-Graef, a learning disabilities teacher consultant, both obtained degrees from Breyer State. Neither could be reached for comment.

    Freehold taxpayers reimbursed Lanza $2,050 for her "doctorate of philosophy in education." Taddei-Graef was not reimbursed, according to school district records.

    Meanwhile, in the Asbury Park school district, Acting School Superintendent James T. Parham said he paid about $3,000 to receive a "Master of Arts" with a major in special education from Almeda University in Idaho.

    Parham said his degree was based on his life experience, and that it took him about a month to put his resume together to get the diploma.

    Asked if he received his Almeda degree in return for merely submitting his resume, Parham said, "I also had to do a paper."

    How long was the paper?

    "The paper must have been about two, maybe three pages," he said.

    Parham said the Asbury Park school district did not reimburse him for the master's degree, which he received on Aug. 6, 2006.

    Asked why he would pay for the degree, Parham said he thought it "might look good" on his resume, and that "it might add something."

    Seven months after receiving the degree, Parham was appointed by the school board at a salary of $110,620 to take the job held by suspended Superintendent Antonio Lewis, who is under criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office.

    Parham, who was a vice principal in the district, said his Almeda degree did not help him become acting superintendent.

    A degree in surgery

    Ezell, the former FBI agent, said Almeda's degrees are "a blatant fraud."

    With an estimated 4 million students expected to take at least one online college course this fall, national experts like Ezell, University of Illinois professor George Gollin and Contreras say that taxpayers — and students — need to be vigilant against schools offering big credentials for only a little work.

    Gollin, a national expert on bogus online degrees, once submitted his resume to a diploma mill and received a master's degree in public administration. Later, he told the school he changed his mind and said he wanted a doctorate degree in thoracic surgery. Once he sent in the money, the school agreed.

    Gollin, a physics professor, has never operated on anyone.

    He found it surprising that a school superintendent, who is supposed to set the highest academic standards, would purchase a questionable degree, Gollin said.

    "We're trying to deal with truth in analysis when we provide education," he said. "To have a superintendent of schools going around, buying false credentials in order to fool people into thinking he has expertise . . . that's just a sign of poor integrity that is astonishing to me."

    In his doctoral dissertation, Wasser stated he was mentored by Dominick L. Flarey, the former president of Breyer State.

    After investigating the school, Alabama canceled its license and forced the school to leave the state.

    So did Idaho. The school currently operates out of a post office box in Los Angeles.

    'That's their opinion'

    In an e-mail, Flarey said he was no longer president and would not discuss the institution or the degrees awarded to Freehold administrators.

    "I have nothing at all to do with the administration of the school. I only teach some courses," he said. Breyer State last week did not list a president on its Web site.

    Responding to criticism of Breyer by Ezell, Gollin and Contreras, Wasser said: "That's their opinion."

    Wasser staunchly defended the work he did for his degree.

    "I did it. I would do it again," said Wasser. "The only thing I would probably do differently, is now that I am aware of this word "accreditation,' I would probably thoroughly research that."

    Wasser said he worked for more than a year on his doctoral dissertation and is proud of the final product.

    "I am not here to defend Breyer State. If you want to do that, that's your business, or the business of the FBI, the CIA, whoever wants to do it. . . . I can only defend my education and my dissertation."

    He said he could have charged taxpayers more.

    "In the future, in a few years, what are people going to say about the degrees people earn online? Because online education is the wave of the future now. It's not attending class and sitting in a classroom, which I could have done.

    "I could have left my job at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. . . . I could have done that. I chose not to. I could have cost the taxpayers a tremendous amount of money," Wasser said.

    In Asbury Park, Parham accessed Almeda University's Web site while he was being interviewed in his office and pointed to an accrediting agency Almeda says has sanctioned its online education program.

    But Gollin, who has been calling attention to diploma mills for years, said the bogus schools also often create phony accreditation agencies that try to give a veneer of acceptability to the academically indefensible.

    Ezell said only degrees accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation have value and are officially recognized by the federal government. The list of accreditation agencies is available at

    "A 10-year-old knows how to use Google," Ezell said. "It's nothing complex. It's all right there."


  • Rivals vie to unseat Scalise: 2 Demos seeking shot at 1st House District , Mary Sparacello, New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 16, 008.


    Jim Harlan is a Harvard-educated venture capitalist with a keen interest in energy policy and a half-million dollars to spend on his campaign. He decided three months ago to make his first run for public office.

    Vinny Mendoza, an organic farmer and real estate investor with graduate degrees from a now-defunct diploma mill [LaSalle University], wants quickly to end the war in Iraq and has spent hardly a dime on his campaign. He's run for office four times in the past four years.

    What unites them is a commitment to returning Louisiana's 1st Congressional District to Democratic hands for the first time since 1977. Both will compete in their party's primary, the winner to take on U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson...


  • Doubt shed on school board candidate's diplomas, Joe Callahan, Ocala, Florida Star-Banner, August 13, 2008. See also College: School board candidate LeCorn does have [bachelor's and master's] degrees, Joe Callahan, Ocala, Florida Star-Banner, August 15, 2008.


    OCALA -- Bernard LeCorn, who says he is qualified to run for School Board because he has a doctorate degree... from a diploma mill...

    Meanwhile, LeCorn's doctorate comes from the American College of Metaphysical Theology, an unaccredited diploma mill that sells doctorate degrees for $249.

    The school Web site, which lists a Golden Valley, Minn. address, says you can also get a master's degree for $209 and a bachelor's for $149, all without taking one class. Degrees are mailed within a month of payment in many cases.

    LeCorn insists his doctorate in pastoral administration is legitimate because the degree recognizes his life's work as an educator and a pastor for First Missionary Full Baptist Church of Ocala on Southeast 35th Court, just north of Belleview.

    "I still feel that my qualifications are better than my opponents," said LeCorn, referring to the colleges that he claimed had awarded him degrees.

    The metaphysical college's Web site — — acknowledges that it is not accredited. It states that accreditation is not important in theology and metaphysics colleges.

    When the Star-Banner called the number listed on the Web site, the phone number was disconnected.

    The school site states that paying for a degree can boost any applicants quest for a better job: ''On the day that you enroll in a degree program, you may legitimately add an important line to your resume..."

    To get a doctorate, the school site states that after paying $249, a student gets full credit for life experiences through living life in your own community without going to classes. The doctorate also includes "ministerial credentials at no extra charge."

    The site defines metaphysics as "the science which investigates first causes of existence and knowledge. It seeks to explain the nature of being and the origin and structure of the world, uniting man's physical, mental, and spiritual character into its true nature of holism."

    During a check of LeCorn's background, it was also discovered that the 54-year-old has had his driver's license suspended twice in the last year for not paying his car insurance premium.

    He said he quickly paid the fee moments after his license was revoked on June 9. It was reinstated on June 25.

    LeCorn was also cited in February 2005 for speeding through the Ward Highlands Elementary School zone. A Marion County deputy pulled LeCorn over for doing 50 mph in a 20-mph zone at 8 a.m.

    "I just didn't see the flashing lights," he said.

    LeCorn has had financial trouble as well, according to a foreclosure case filed at the Marion County Courthouse. LeCorn purchased the First Missionary Full Gospel Baptist Church near Belleview and the mortgage was held by Robert Hobbs.

    Hobbs filed for foreclosure in 2006 after LeCorn fell far behind on his payments, which were more than $1,400 per month. A Marion County judge ordered the church to be sold in August 2006.

    Just before it was to go to auction, friends — investors — of LeCorn paid off the mortgage and the foreclosure case was closed, according to court files.

    LeCorn said his church congregation started dropping and so did donations and he fell behind on the payments. "It's only as good as the money stream," he said.

    When asked if he felt the near foreclosure had any bearing on how he would handle the School District's $628 million budget, he said: "I think that means I know how to get things done when money is tight," he said, referring to the School District's funding shortage. "I know to get things done on a shoestring budget."


  • Iranian minister's Oxford degree a fake: Certificate riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes, Associated Press, MSNBC, August 13, 2008.


    Iran's new interior minister has raised an uproar among lawmakers and Iranian media over an apparently fake claim that he holds an honorary doctorate from Britain's Oxford University. To back his case, he's shown off a degree certificate riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes.

    Oxford issued a statement Wednesday denying it ever awarded Ali Kordan an honorary doctorate of law, as he claimed to parliament before it approved his appointment to the post earlier this month.

    The Interior Ministry put out a copy of the degree, with an Oxford seal and dated June 2000, aiming to prove its authenticity.

    But in the certificate, "entitled" is misspelled "intitled," and it says Kordan was granted the degree "to be benefitted from its scientific privileges."

    The clumsily worded document says Kordan "has shown a great effort in preparing educational materials and his research in the domain of comparative law,that has opened a new chapter,not only in our university,but, to our knowledge,in this country" — leaving out spaces after all but one of the commas. It was published in several Iranian papers this week.

    Oxford said in its statement that it "has no record of Mr. Ali Kordan receiving an honorary doctorate or any other degree from the university." It added that the three professors whose alleged signatures are on the certificate have all held posts at the university at some stage but none of them work in the field of law and none would sign degree certificates.

    Media threatened
    The alleged fake has been heavily covered in several Iranian newspapers and Web sites, and parliament speaker Ali Larijani on Monday ordered the body's education committee to look into the degree's authenticity.

    The Tehran prosecutors office announced Wednesday that the Alef news Web site, which has carried several reports questioning the degree, has been "banned based on complaints by legal entities," the state news agency IRNA reported. [See] The office said the site had no work license and did not link the ban to the interior minister issue. The site could not be accessed in Iran on Wednesday.

    "The Interior Ministry does not have the right to threaten the media for questioning the authenticity of the claim," parliament member Ahmed Tavakoli was quoted as saying on Alef. He said the "truth of such an important issue must be made clear." Interior Ministry officials could not be reached Wednesday for comment on the Oxford statement.

    During his confirmation debate, numerous lawmakers argued Kordan was unqualified for the ministry post, some claiming that his Oxford degree was a fake. Kordan was approved Aug. 5 by a relatively slim margin of around 160 of the 269 lawmakers present, a reflection of the concerns. The Interior Ministry runs the country's police and oversees elections.

    Kordan was considered a compromise candidate between hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Larijani, who is a conservative but seen as a rival to the president. Kordan was Larijani's deputy when Larijani held a previous post as head of the state broadcasting service, and Kordan later went on to serve as deputy oil minister.

    'Torn paper'
    Ahmadinejad defended Kordan amid the debates, dismissing degrees in general as "torn paper" not necessary for serving the people.

    An Interior Ministry statement this week insisted the degree was authentic, calling claims otherwise "destructive" and "insulting" and urging media to refrain from "lying and suspicious reports."

    Tavakoli and other parliament opponents of Kordan have not called for his resignation. Hamid Rasai, a lawmaker who backs Kordan, was quoted in several Iranian papers this week saying parliament approved Kordan despite the degree dispute, but added that the minister should "remove the ambiguities" over the issue.



  • Is a Canyon College degree valid? The school hasn't registered with Idaho, even though officials say it's required, and many states don't recognize its diplomas., Bill Roberts, Boise, Idaho, Idaho Statesman, August 10, 2008.


    Janet Killen invested $5,500 and four years of her life getting what she thought was a master's degree in nursing education from a Caldwell online college. When she presented her degree in 2007 to Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., where she teaches nursing, she was dumbfounded when administrators told her it was worthless in her state.

    Moreover, Oregon state officials told her she must stop touting the diploma she received from Canyon College or she could face civil and criminal penalties for using an invalid degree. She has to notify a hospital where she works that her degree is not recognized in Oregon.

    "I felt really violated," Killen said. "I have two associate degrees, a bachelor's degree and an illegal master's degree. Do you love it?"

    How can something like this happen?

    The Idaho State Board of Education, which oversees for-profit colleges like Canyon, hasn't had the staff to enforce state rules that require schools like Canyon to be registered with the state before handing out diplomas.

    But Mike Rush, Ed Board executive director, says he will seek an injunction against Canyon College if it doesn't comply with Idaho law.

    Oregon won't accept degrees from Canyon College because the school is not registered in Idaho and is not accredited by federally recognized agencies, said Alan Contreras, administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization.

    Registration helps the state be aware of what programs are available in Idaho. Accreditation gives an assurance that the program meets some minimal standards for quality, state officials say.

    "Degrees issued by Canyon College have the same validity as degrees issued by Les Schwab Tires or a neighborhood grocery: zero," Contreras wrote to Canyon College's legal counsel.

    Idaho state officials also put distance between themselves and Canyon College.

    "Their credits will not transfer into any state-supported college inside Idaho," Harv Lyter, Idaho proprietary schools coordinator, wrote to Contreras in an e-mail recently. "Idaho does not consider Canyon College credits or diplomas valid."

    Michael F. Storrs, who was listed as Canyon College president when the school filed business papers with the Idaho Secretary of State's office in 1998, could not be reached for comment. John Denmark, also an owner of the school, declined to speak with the Statesman.

    In a letter to Contreras, Canyon College's attorney, Brad Miller, defended the school.

    Canyon "takes great pride in offering educational opportunities that would not otherwise be available to a number of individuals at an affordable price," he wrote.

    A computer search found no lawsuits against Canyon College in Idaho's 4th Judicial District or any complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.

    But Idaho and the school disagree on how much oversight the state should have.

    On July 2, Lyter wrote Denmark, saying the school must register with the state by July 31, according to letters the Statesman obtained in a public records request from the State Board of Education.

    Miller responded by saying the school offers no degrees from locations in Idaho so it is not subject to registration.

    But a law revised in Idaho in 2006 says "if you operated from or purported to operate from a location in Idaho, you are an Idaho school," Lyter said.

    In recent days, on some pages of its Web site but not all of them, Canyon College changed its mailing address to a suburb outside of Sacramento, Calif. The phone and fax numbers still have Idaho area codes.


    Canyon College, which is 10 years old, has an enrollment of about 4,000 students, college officials say. Online courses are offered in a variety of fields including theology, Chicano and Middle Eastern studies, criminology and nursing, according to the school's Web site. The school has had an office at 111 Poplar St. in Caldwell.

    Idaho hasn't had anyone to focus on for-profit school oversight until Lyter, a former inspector general at Mountain Home Air Force base, was hired a month ago.

    "We've had nobody minding the store," Rush said.

    Until Idaho beefs up its regulation of proprietary schools, Contreras will classify the state as one of the "Seven Sorry Sisters, the states with the worst regulation of private colleges." The others are: Hawaii, California, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Colorado, although Alabama has recently toughened its enforcement against such schools.


    Oregon isn't the only state with concerns about Canyon College. Washington's office of degree authorization wrote Canyon College officials in July, reminding them that academic credentials from the school are valueless in the state and can't be used to help get employment or a license to practice a trade.

    Michael Ball, Washington's degree authorization associate director, said the letter was a "shot across the bow" to Canyon College. Don't "think of coming to Washington," he said.

    And the Pennsylvania Department of Education notified its school district officials that Canyon College is "not authorized to operate in Pennsylvania" after a group of teachers in a district 60 miles north of Pittsburgh sought reimbursement for attending classes through Canyon College. The classes could cost taxpayers in the West Middlesex School District between $20,000 and $40,000.

    "Taxpayers are putting out taxpayer money and not getting the quality of education expected of an accredited agency," said Tom Hubert, school board president. "Idaho needs to step up to the plate. They are ... allowing them to do this. I would hope officials in Idaho could see that and help us out."


    While Canyon has attracted some of the focus of Lyter's office, Lyter also had to pay attention briefly to Breyer State University, a school that made a short stop in Idaho this summer.

    Breyer State University, which was in Idaho during the early part of the decade, returned here in late June, according to Idaho Secretary of State business records. The online school moved operations back after it lost its license to operate in Alabama amid a crackdown on what education officials called "diploma mills."

    "One of the ... institution's many violations included conferring honorary doctorates on individuals based on life and work experience, a one-time application fee and a monetary contribution to the institution," said a press release issued by Alabama's Department of Post Secondary Education.

    On July 2, Lyter told Breyer officials they must register with the State Board under Idaho law.

    Late last month, Breyer State changed its address and phone number on its Web site from Boise to Los Angeles.

    John Moran, Breyer State's marketing director and dean of students, declined to comment.

    The school is appealing the loss of its license in Alabama.


    Back in Oregon, Killen, the nursing instructor whose degree was rejected, maintains she got a good education at Canyon College. Killen took about a dozen classes, and she said many seemed in line with those she would have gotten elsewhere but would have cost as much as $600 per credit hour.

    Canyon charges $500 per master's course and $435 per bachelor's course, according to the school's Web site.

    But Killen is also upset that Canyon College administrators never explained that her degree would not be recognized in Oregon when she started taking classes, she said.

    "They should have informed me," Killen said. "I knew nothing."

    Contreras, the Oregon degree authorization administrator, wrote Canyon College officials demanding a refund for Killen and reminding school officials that they had agreed in 2000 to notify any Oregon resident that Canyon degrees are not valid in that state.

    "We are disappointed that Canyon College continues to take money from Oregon residents," Contreras wrote on July 3. "(T)his kind of crude plunder really needs to stop."

    On Friday, Canyon College officials agreed to a refund, but did not mention Killen by name in the letter or the amount it would give back.

    Miller wrote that the school agreed to the refund in part because Killen was threatened "with criminal prosecution if she listed having a degree from Canyon College on her resume." Canyon officials also offered to quit accepting Oregon residents if the state would drop whatever issues it has with the college.

    Contreras declined.

    "The laws of Washington, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Texas, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia disallow the use of degrees from Canyon College," Contreras wrote. "For Canyon simply to cease offering its products to Oregon residents would serve little purpose unless it also agreed to cease offering them to residents of the other states."

    As for Killen, she's back on the Internet, looking for another place to get a master's.

    "I want a degree," she said.


  • PhD, the easy way: Tribune reporter Russell Working tells about his adventures with diploma mills, where $699 and 'life experience' would earn him a degree in just about anything. , Russell Working, Chicago, Illinois, Chicago Tribune, August 9, 2008.


    Brain surgery, anyone?

    Just slip on a hospital gown and step into my operating cubicle here at the Tribune.

    Let me clear my desk of printouts, unwashed coffee cups and old newspapers so you can stretch out. Comfy? Now, I'll need a tool sharp enough to crack open your skull. Scissors might work, if I hammer on them with my shoe.

    There, there. Trust me. I'm a doctor—or I will be as soon as I fork over my medical school tuition.

    Recently, I received approval for a series of bogus academic credentials, including a "Doctorate Degree in Medicine & Surgery" from a diploma mill called Ashwood University. All I have to do is persuade my editors to pay $699 "tuition," including a $75 surcharge guaranteeing me a 4.0 grade-point average.

    Suddenly, degree mills are a hot topic. Some 9,600 people nationwide—among them Berwyn police officers and a Chicago Public Schools instructor—are suspected of buying junk degrees from St. Regis University, a criminal enterprise in Washington state in which eight employees have pleaded guilty to fraud.

    So I decided to test how difficult it was to accumulate credentials based on what the diploma mills call "life experience." Turns out just about any life experience beyond taking aspirin regularly can qualify you for an advanced degree in medicine.

    I applied by typing in the names of a number of hospitals I had visited over the years, whether it was to have tonsils removed, visit a sick friend or interview someone. I didn't claim employment at any of them. I didn't even note the dates. The list looked like this:

    * Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Long Beach, Calif.
    * St. John Medical Center, Longview, Wash.
    * Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, Deschapelles, Haiti.
    * Thousand Bed Hospital, Vladivostok, Russia.
    * Etc.

    Fifteen hours later, Ashwood University e-mailed the good news that I could lay the foundation for a new career if I'm ever laid off. The note read:

    "Congratulations, Russell Working!

    "We are pleased to announce that on the basis of your resume submitted by the Assistant Registrar, the 10-member evaluation committee at Ashwood University has finally approved you for Doctorate Degree."

    The bogus degrees in medicine aren't funny, though. Consider the case of John Curran, a phony medical doctor in Rhode Island who charged most patients a standard fee of $10,000, according to a newspaper in Kentucky, where the diploma mill was located.

    Among Curran's patients was Taylor Alves, an 18-year-old photographer and model who was dying of ovarian cancer. Curran said he could heal her with a concoction of powdered vegetables in water. So she spent her final weeks refusing other food and died in great anguish, her mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

    In 2006, Curran was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering.

    Diploma mill operators—and buyers—can run afoul of the law in several ways. The federal government has nailed people on charges that include mail and wire fraud. In Illinois it is illegal to produce a false academic degree for profit unless it is marked "for novelty purposes only," said Natalie Bauer, spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office. Both the state and federal governments forbid using bogus degrees to gain employment or advance on the job.

    George Gollin, a professor and diploma-mill fraud-buster from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been leading the way in exposing how easy it is to get a fake degree.

    Several years ago, he discovered that St. Regis University, based near Spokane, Wash., was offering high school degrees for those who filled out an online form with 100 questions, starting out with, "Where does the president of the United States live?" On a form with four possible answers to each question, Gollin intentionally clicked most of them wrong.

    St. Regis was so impressed with his answers, it said he was eligible for both high school and associate's degrees.

    "If I were to give the test form to a bunch of pigeons and let them pick answers by randomly pecking," Gollin said, "I would have been outscored by slightly more than 75 percent of the pigeons who took the test."

    In my case, I decided to expand my employment options by applying for a PhD in child and family studies from Rochville University. As a doctoral thesis, I submitted the Unabomber manifesto, written by domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski.

    Under the title "Consequences of the Industrial Revolution: A Jungian Approach," I submitted a 34,000-word rant by a madman imprisoned for mailing bombs that killed three people and wounded 22. Not to worry. A few hours later, Kaczynski's wisdom had qualified me to hang out in playgrounds and scribble notes on the behavior of other people's children.

    For my doctorate in theology and Biblical counseling from the bogus Belford University, I submitted the Hamas charter as my thesis. The work blames "Zionists" for corrupting education and culture worldwide though secret guises as "Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, gangs of spies and the like."

    The universities replied positively in remarkably similar e-mails, which made me think they might be different faces of the same diploma scheme.

    Then I began getting calls on my cell phone from diploma mill representatives demanding the money. The "universities" kept e-mailing to say I had only seven days to pay. When the deadline passed, they all granted me another seven. I never paid anything to any of them.

    Recently, I asked Rochville to change my PhD to architecture and urban planning, and it agreed without asking for additional life experience or documentation. So I sent another e-mail asking to change it to a PhD in theater arts.

    "I started thinking I'd like to direct musicals, such as 'Mame,' 'The Fields of Ambrosia,' 'Criminally Insane Puppets' (better than it sounds!), etc.," I wrote, adding, "P.S. It's very important that you spell it this way: Theatre. I'm thinking of moving to London."

    They agreed once again.

    So I called up Rochville and spoke to a "student counselor" who spoke with a foreign accent, identifying himself as Jason Anderson. When I asked, he said he was in Maryland.

    I told him I had used the Unabomber manifesto. Why would the 10-member faculty committee accredit that Kaczynski diatribe?

    Not so fast, Anderson said.

    "After that e-mail is sent to you, there's a whole process that goes after that," he said. "You get yourself registered, and then actually we go deeper into what you've done, and find out what major you qualify for."

    Whew! Glad we cleared that up. I'm sure they all operate that way.

    So let's see how confident they are in their own degrees. Would the members of Ashwood University's evaluation committee please line up at my cubicle for their prostate exams?


  • North Hills elementary principal has ties to 'diploma mill', Jonathan D. Silver, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Post-Gazette, August 07, 2008.


    One of the new principals in the North Hills School District boasts a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh -- no small accomplishment for a 27-year-old with several years of full-time teaching experience.

    But after recent events, Dr. Joseph W. Pasquerilla might be reluctant to tout his status as a faculty member with another institution: Canyon College, an online entity that is widely viewed as disreputable.

    Courses taught by Dr. Pasquerilla to fellow teachers at his old workplace, the West Middlesex Area School District in Mercer County, have led to problems there and prompted a meeting with his new boss to discuss the Canyon College situation.

    The Idaho-based institution is not recognized by Idaho, Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Education or any respected accreditation agency.

    "They are quite a well-known diploma mill," said Alan Contreras, an expert on the subject and director of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization.

    Degrees from Canyon College are essentially worthless in Pennsylvania. A state Department of Education official said the institution is not authorized to operate in Pennsylvania, and its programs and courses are not approved.

    "We discussed with him very clearly that at North Hills, if one of our staff members were to partake in any of the offerings at Canyon, it would not be recognized at North Hills," said district spokeswoman Tina Vojtko. "We don't see the affiliation being necessarily relevant here at North Hills."

    Officials at Canyon College could not be reached for comment.

    Dr. Pasquerilla, who earned his master's degree at Youngstown State University, said he joined Canyon College with noble intentions -- to help teachers at his old district obtain master's degrees at an affordable price and with a curriculum he could assemble.

    Under the West Middlesex contract, teachers with master's degrees can earn an extra $2,400 per year.

    Dr. Pasquerilla acknowledged he should have sought more information before accepting a contract to teach courses for a fee of $250 per student. He said he did not know a master's degree from the school would not be valid in the state, he did not realize Canyon was not authorized to operate in its home state, and he did not realize the entity was not properly accredited.

    "I guess I should have asked more questions," Dr. Pasquerilla, principal of Northway Elementary School, said recently. "Maybe there was some misinformation brought to us by them."

    Dr. Pasquerilla's situation is a cautionary tale illustrating the difficulty -- even for people with a doctorate -- in sorting out reputable schools from diploma mills, accredited institutions from those that offer bogus degrees.

    "If someone is taking course work to get a degree, they need to do their homework to ensure it is an accredited, legitimate degree-granting institution. Otherwise, they may end up spending money and doing work for what ultimately could be a meaningless degree," Pennsylvania education department spokesman Michael Race said.

    Despite the drama in West Middlesex, Dr. Pasquerilla enjoys the support of the North Hills board president.

    "I don't know anything about Canyon College and quite honestly I don't really care. What I'm looking for is somebody who can shoot the lights out for the North Hills School District," Jeffrey A. Meyer said.

    "We hired a guy to do a job as an administrator. Based on the feedback that we've received from the people who know him best in his previous district, we've received rave reviews."

    But Dr. Pasquerilla still needs to sort out for himself whether he will continue to teach for Canyon, something he is not ready to abandon, despite the questions that have arisen.

    "Based upon what I know now, I would need to reconnect and re-evaluate the situation with Canyon College," Dr. Pasquerilla said. "I have a commitment to the staff at West Middlesex.''

    As for that district, where Dr. Pasquerilla passed out fliers advertising his courses, it has its own problems.

    At least 11 teachers studied under Dr. Pasquerilla and his former colleague, math teacher Mark Hogue.

    Five of them have successfully sought tuition reimbursement as provided under their contract. The district has paid them $12,000 in taxpayer money, covering the bulk of what they paid Canyon College.

    But since concerns have cropped up, the district has put a stop on payments to six other teachers until its solicitor can study the matter.

    Dr. Pasquerilla said he found Canyon College on the Internet and was attracted to its promise of allowing him to craft his own curriculum and offer it to peers at a reasonable price.

    "We just were trying to do something that was good for the district," Dr. Pasquerilla said. "I had all the right intentions in mind, and that is to help educators become better educators"

    His plan blew up when school board members began questioning the reimbursements and asking pointed questions about Canyon College.

    "It just didn't seem right," West Middlesex board President Thomas J. Hubert said.

    Mr. Hubert's hunch was borne out, and not only in Pennsylvania.

    "There's no legal basis for the claim this is a legitimate degree," Oregon's Mr. Contreras said of Canyon College. "The entity itself has no legal authority to issue degrees. It would be like saying I did a bunch of course work for Wal-Mart and they gave me a degree."

    Mr. Contreras claims that Canyon has twice violated an agreement to warn Oregon residents interested in its programs that they cannot legally use a Canyon degree in the state.

    Idaho is trying to get Canyon to register with the state, but those efforts have so far failed.

    "We do not recognize them. We do not recognize the degrees or certificates they may grant, and essentially it's 'buyer beware,' " said Mark Browning, spokesman for the Idaho State Board of Education.

    Idaho law states a school must be accredited by an agency recognized by the state or federal government.

    Canyon College states on its Web site that it is accredited by The American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board and The Association for Innovation in Distance Education.

    The naturopathic group's credentials are questioned by Karen Howard, executive director of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

    "There's no indication this is a legitimate accrediting organization," Ms. Howard said.

    As for the other agency, Jan Riggs, a spokeswoman for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, said neither her group nor the U.S. Department of Education recognizes it.

    At West Middlesex, Superintendent Alan J. Baldarelli said he does not plan to approve future requests for tuition reimbursement at Canyon College, something that seems to be in sync with the wishes of his board president, Mr. Hubert.

    "The taxpayers deserve a little bit more for their money," Mr. Hubert said.


  • Diploma mill co-conspirator nets 3-year jail term, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Spokesman-Review, August 6, 2008.


    Steven Karl Randock Sr., described by a prosecutor as the chief financial operator of a Spokane-based diploma mill, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison after his defense attorney made an impassioned plea for home detention.

    Randock got the same sentence given to his wife, Dixie Ellen Randock, on July 2 after they both pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

    For six years, the Randocks and a team of associates sold high school and college degrees from 121 fictitious online schools they created and counterfeit diplomas and transcripts from 66 legitimate universities.

    From nondescript offices in Mead and later in Post Falls, they sold more than 10,000 of the degrees and related academic products to 9,612 buyers in 131 countries ¡V pulling in $7,369,907.

    If they hadn't struck plea bargains and been convicted by a jury, they each faced 87 to 105 months in federal prison on the conspiracy charge alone. Companion money laundering charges were dismissed when the Randocks made their plea bargains.

    Dixie Randock is appealing her three-year sentence.

    Her husband's attorney, Peter Schweda, said Steven Randock has suffered heart attacks, strokes and most recently "cluster headaches" and should be allowed to serve his sentence by being restricted to the couple's home in Colbert.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs argued that Randock, 69, will get adequate medical care in a federal prison. He was allowed to remain free and ordered to self-report to a prison once the facility is identified by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

    "It is clear to me that his culpability is certainly in the same category" of his wife, U.S. District Court Judge Lonnie Suko said in sentencing Randock.

    The judge said that under court rulings and federal sentencing guidelines, a defendant's age and medical issues are not relevant in determining where a sentence is served unless the defense establishes that an "extraordinary physical condition" exists. Randock and his at torney failed to prove that, said the judge, who was limited to the 36-month term unless he rejected the written plea agreements that called for that sentence.

    "There's no constitutional right ¡K to a particular kind of medical care" for federal felons, the judge said.

    Schweda said his client had open-heart surgery in April after earlier heart attacks and strokes, and takes 11 prescription medications.

    If sent to prison, Schweda said, Randock is "afraid he will end up dead or paralyzed. He's afraid he will die in prison."

    In federal prison Randock may not be allowed to take the types of medicines prescribed by his doctors, Schweda said.

    He also would be subjected to a "rigid routine, won't have the right pillow, won't be able to eat when he wants and will be in an environment where he could be victimized by younger inmates," Schweda said.

    But the prosecutor said it was the seriousness of the crime, not Randock's health, that should dictate where he serves his prison term.

    The Randocks were not only selling bogus and counterfeit degrees, the prosecutor told the court, they also were operating fraudulent accreditation and evaluations companies that Steven Randock helped set up.

    "This was a very, very serious crime," Jacobs told the court. "It presented a significant risk of danger to the public."

    If the U.S. Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies hadn't begun Operation Gold Seal in early 2005 and obtained grand jury indictments against the Randocks and six others, the number of fraudulent degrees sold by the operation would now be double or triple the 10,000, Jacobs said.

    The prosecutor said the federal prison system will do a thorough examination of Randock, as it does with the 180,000 other federal prisoners, and provide the appropriate level of medical care.

    His attorney told the court that Randock wasn't a leader or organizer and was only doing what his wife told him to do as part of the conspiracy.

    Randock didn't stand to address the court, as is routine, but read a prepared statement, telling the court he wanted to apologize to "my family and friends." He didn't mention the public or customers who bought degrees from the diploma mill.

    Randock said he wanted to serve his prison term in home confinement, living with his mother-in-law if his wife eventually goes to prison.

    "I don't think I could take the rigorous routines of prison," Randock told the judge. "I'm sorry this has ever happened, and I'll never be in trouble again."


  • HEA: A Huge, Exacting Accountability Bill, Doug Lederman, Washington DC, Inside Higher Ed, August 1, 2008.


    If a bill's impact or importance were measured by its length or the amount of time Congress spent working on it, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HR 4137) would be one for the ages. At more than 1,150 pages, the bill is about 20 times longer than the Higher Education Act of 1965 that it modifies, creating 64 new programs and touching on issues as diverse as the availability of Pell Grants and illegal downloading of digital music and video. And the legislation, which finally passed both the House and the Senate by overwhelmingly margins on Thursday, has been in discussion on Capitol Hill, in one form or another, for most of this decade. It is five years overdue...
    Information about the bill, including its text, is available here. The July 31, 2008 votes were 380 to 49 in the House and 83 to 8 in the Senate. The legislation is still referred to as H.R. 4137.

    The bill became law when it was signed by President Bush on August 14, 2008.

    Material related to diploma mills can be found on pages 10 and 17 and is quoted here:

    Title I--General Provisions; Sec. 103. Additional Definitions; (a) Additional Definitions:

    ."..(20) DIPLOMA MILL.—The term 'diploma mill' means an
    entity that—

      "(A)(i) offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas, or certificates,
      that may be used to represent to the general public
      that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or
      certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education
      or training; and

        "(ii) requires such individual to complete little or no
        education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma,
        or certificate; and

      "(B) lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or
      association that is recognized as an accrediting agency
      or association of institutions of higher education (as such
      term is defined in section 102) by—

        "(i) the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part
        H of title IV; or

        "(ii) a Federal agency, State government, or other
        organization or association that recognizes accrediting
        agencies or associations.


    Title I--General Provisions; Sec. 109. Diploma Mills:

    Part B of title I (20 U.S.C. 1011 et seq.) is further amended
    by adding at the end the following:


      "(a) INFORMATION TO THE PUBLIC.—The Secretary shall maintain
      information and resources on the Department's website to
      assist students, families, and employers in understanding what
      a diploma mill is and how to identify and avoid diploma mills.

      "(b) COLLABORATION.—The Secretary shall continue to collaborate
      with the United States Postal Service, the Federal Trade
      Commission, the Department of Justice (including the Federal
      Bureau of Investigation), the Internal Revenue Service, and the
      Office of Personnel Management to maximize Federal efforts to—

        "(1) prevent, identify, and prosecute diploma mills; and

        "(2) broadly disseminate to the public information about
        diploma mills, and resources to identify diploma mills.."


    St. Regis buyers list is published by Spokane Spokesman-Review

    • Buyers of bogus degrees named, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, July 30, 2008. Here is a link to a buyer's name search utility.


      Hundreds of people working in the military, government and education are on a list of almost 10,000 people who spent $7.3 million buying phony and counterfeit high school and college degrees from a Spokane diploma mill.

      The complete list of buyers, which the U.S. Department of Justice has refused to release to the public, has been obtained by The Spokesman-Review.

      "There are people in high places with these degrees, and only one of them has been charged with a crime," a source familiar with the list said Monday.

      A preliminary analysis of the list by The Spokesman-Review shows 135 individuals with ties to the military, 39 with links to educational institutions and 17 employed by government agencies. Those numbers were derived from e-mail addresses that are part of the list obtained by the newspaper.

      However, the exact number of individuals with ties to the military, government and education is believed to be far greater because many of those buyers used their personal e-mail accounts.

      The list includes NASA employee Timothy Francis Gorman, who bought an electrical engineering degree using his e-mail account at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to correspond with the diploma mill, and U.S. Department of Health oncology expert Frank S. Govern, who purchased a doctorate in health care administration.

      National Security Agency employees David W. Barden and Barry A. Hester both bought degrees. Hester, who was a computer Web trainer and designer for the NSA with top-secret clearance, paid $1,187 for an information systems and technology degree, the list shows.

      Eric Gregory Cole, who was a contract employee for the Central Intelligence Agency, paid $3,801 for a degree in information systems management. His top-secret clearance at the CIA was revoked late last year, months after his name was forwarded to the Office of Inspector General, according to one source.

      "It was like pulling teeth to get them to do anything about this guy," the source said.

      Eight people who set up and operated the diploma mill, including ringleader Dixie Ellen Randock, were indicted and convicted of federal crimes. Randock, a 58-year-old high school dropout, was sentenced to three years in prison.

      Government prosecutors will recommend that same sentence for her husband, Steve, who is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 5. The Randocks sold thousands of counterfeit degrees and transcripts from legitimate colleges, and phony degrees and transcripts from nonexistent online universities and schools.

      Only one buyer – former deputy U.S. marshal David F. Brodhagen, who was forced into early retirement – has been charged criminally as an outgrowth of the case.

      At least one other deputy U.S. marshal, Michael Cameron, is on the list showing he bought a criminal justice degree from the Spokane diploma mill.

      Also on the list are William R. Church, a senior military adviser working in the White House, and George Michael Navadel, a U.S. State Department computer systems negotiator, who paid $5,400 for a doctorate in network engineering.

      Duwayne Huss, an employee of Nuclear Management Co., operator of two nuclear plants in Minnesota, bought degrees in nuclear engineering and accounting.

      "I can't give you information about our employees," company spokeswoman Mary Sadock said Monday when asked if Huss was still employed.

      Author Bonita E. Broyles, who has written a series of books about prescription dosages and nursing care, bought a doctorate in education for $2,225, the list shows.

      Richard J. Caverly, of Colbert, paid $236 for a degree in construction management before getting a job in May 2006 as a building inspector with the city of Spokane. He worked as a temporary building inspector before getting a job in December 2006 as a project employee, tracking down construction under way without a permit, said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist.

      Caverly was "released" from that job in December, according to Feist, who couldn't provide specifics.

      Brett C. Jarmin paid $1,041 for a bachelor of science degree in criminology and criminal justice. Jarmin had worked as chief of police in Edgemont, S.D.

      Jarmin was fired in October 2000 after helping his department to unionize. He later sued Edgemont city officials, settling out of court in 2006.

      His telephone number has been disconnected.

      Michael J. Hoilien, who worked for the Air Force in Fayetteville, N.C., bought a medical degree. His current employment status couldn't be immediately confirmed.

      Alan P. Hernandez, a police officer in San Antonio, paid $2,630 for a bachelor's and a Ph.D. in criminal justice, then went to work as an adviser and counselor for one of the Randocks' bogus online universities.

      Roger L. Anderson, an enlisted man in the military, and his wife, Karen R. Jones-Anderson, who also was enlisted, bought counterfeit degrees from Texas A&M – one of 66 legitimate universities whose diplomas were copied and sold by the Spokane diploma mill. With their degrees, they became officers but now may face courts-martial or ouster from the military.

      Bogus college degrees were purchased by Marilyn Clark Kennedy, who worked as director of health services for the Barstow, Calif., School District, and Bruce Yampolski, director of operations for the Department of Health in St. Louis, Mo.

      John G. Simmers, employed by Virginia's Department of Corrections, paid $2,682 for three degrees. It couldn't be confirmed if he used the degrees for job promotions, pay increases or a boost in retirement checks.

      In the education field, Bart G. Anderson, superintendent of a school district in Columbus, Ohio, bought a doctoral degree in public administration, and Douglas Lane Gill, who worked as an ROTC instructor for the Norwalk Public Schools in Bridgeport, Conn., bought two degrees. Investigators are attempting to determine whether Gill was reimbursed by the federal government for the $1,431 he paid for his advanced education.

      Remah Moustafa Ahmed Kamel, a 43-year-old Saudi Arabian, bought degrees in obstetrics and gynecology, but investigators don't know whether he's practicing in those medical fields in his home country.

      "No one is looking at any of the foreign purchasers to see what they're doing with these degrees," one law enforcement source said.

      Jim McDevitt, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington who had refused to release the buyers' list, expressed only mild displeasure Monday when told the list was in the public domain.

      "We did not release the list because it was our legal obligation not to release it, and I stand by that decision," McDevitt said when reached at a conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

      Investigators who worked Operation Gold Seal are in the process of forwarding the list to all 50 state attorneys general and various other agencies, including the Washington State Department of Health.

      "There's a leak in every system," McDevitt said when asked if he was surprised that the list was on the newspaper's Web site.

      The reluctance of the Justice Department to prosecute at least some additional buyers may soon change.

      The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it was learned Monday, is considering pursuing charges against an estimated 300 federal employees who bought bogus or counterfeit degrees.

      Investigators are considering using a federal law that allows them to charge individuals who have fraudulently obtained credentials giving them access to or jobs in U.S. government facilities.

      "There are a number of different public safety concerns out there," one source said.

      Reached in Seattle on Monday, Homeland Security spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said, "We're aware of this issue, and we will take the appropriate action, but because it's an ongoing investigation, I cannot discuss the specifics with you at this time."

      Some numbers gleaned from the list of 9,612 names of people who bought counterfeit or bogus degrees and certificates from Spokane-based diploma mills:

      •Anthony McGugan, of Barnegat, N.J., spent $24,088 on 16 different degrees and certificates between 1983 and 2002, including a doctor of theology, a masters of theology in systematic theology, a Master of Social Work in addiction counseling, bachelor's degrees in human services and biblical studies, and certificates in addiction therapy, family and youth counseling, ministry education, Christian education, interpersonal relationships, addiction counseling, professional counseling, substance abuse counseling and social development. That was twice as many degrees and certificates as anyone else on the list.

      •Randall Dale McVay, of Washington, D.C., and Thurman Towry, who has no address in the list, each bought eight degrees or certificates. Towry bought a Ph.D, certificates indicating an associate professorship and a full professorship in business administration, and multiple degrees in business administration.

      •McVay, who was a senior official at Bolling Air Force Base, bought a Ph.D. in management and a Ph.D. in occupational health, and certificates in project management, production management and organizational management.

      •Four people bought seven degrees or certificates; 10 bought six degrees or certifcates; 22 bought five degrees or certificates; and 76 bought four.

      •Of the 9,612 purchasers, 826 bought at least one Ph.D. and 41 bought two doctorates.

      •Some of those doctorates were awarded in health-related fields, including at least two naturopathic doctorates, two doctorates in naturopathic medicine, one Ph.D. in medicine and one "medical" Ph.D. An Australian bought a Ph.D. in natural and nutritional sciences. A customer without a listed address bought a Ph.D. in molecular mwedicine. Another customer, also without an address listed in the database, bought a Ph.D. in veterinary medicine and epidemiology, and a Master of Science in veterinary clinical medicine.

      Staff writer John Stucke contributed to this report. Bill Morlin can be reached at [email protected]. Jim Camden can be reached at [email protected].


    • Hundreds Linked to Diploma Mill: Government, Military Probed For Violators, Valerie Strauss, Washington DC The Washington Post, July 30, 2008.


      Scores of people in Maryland, Virginia and the District are on a list compiled by federal investigators of more than 9,600 people who might have purchased fraudulent high school diplomas and college degrees, including some who appear to work in government and the military.

      Federal authorities are studying the list for U.S. employees who might have purchased a diploma or degree from an Internet-based diploma mill that operated out of Washington state, said Brandon A. Montgomery, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. Matched names will be sent to the agencies where the person works for possible administrative action, he said.

      Names on the list might include some people who only inquired about purchasing a degree. The list includes at least 160 people in Virginia, 117 in Maryland and 17 in the District. At least 20 of those appear to be military personnel, and at least 10 appear to be government employees or contractors. Of 9,612 names listed, 5,212 are without state identification.

      "Literally you could have someone using a diploma in an extremely harmful way if they are not properly trained," said Kristen Nelson, director of communications and government relations for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, where the state legislature this year passed a law making it illegal to fraudulently use a phony degree.

      The Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper obtained the list and posted it on its Web site on Monday, the Associated Press reported. The Washington Post obtained it from a state government official on condition of anonymity. Efforts by The Post this week to contact people on the list for comment were unsuccessful.

      The list, which has not been made public by the government, was compiled during an eight-month federal investigation in Washington state into an international diploma operation that was run from 1999 through 2005. It sold more than $6 million worth of phony high school diplomas and undergraduate and graduate degrees to people in more than 130 countries.

      According to court documents in Washington state, the conspirators also sold counterfeit diplomas and academic products purporting to be from legitimate academic institutions, such as the University of Maryland, George Washington University, the University of Missouri and Texas A&M University.

      Those operating the scam created numerous phony schools, including St. Regis University, Ameritech University, Pan America University, James Monroe University, James Monroe High School, All Saints American University and New Manhattan University. Without doing any academic work, their customers could purchase such degrees as a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of science, a master of arts, a master of science and a doctor of philosophy.

      Eight people have been or will soon be sentenced in the scam. Dixie Ellen Randock, 58, a leader of the diploma mill, was sentenced this month in Washington state to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Her daughter was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, and Randock's husband will be sentenced Aug. 5. Others involved will be sentenced later this year.

      Investigators said the use of phony degrees poses national security and other risks, with some people seeking to use them to facilitate entry into the United States. Higher education advocates who monitor diploma mills tried to persuade the federal government to release the list, saying it is important to ensure that no one is using the degrees fraudulently and that those who buy phony degrees are not victims. It is not a crime to buy a phony degree, but it can be to use one fraudulently to obtain a job, a pay increase or other benefit.

      "I think this is a real wake-up call to people who think diploma mills are a small problem," said Alan Contreras, administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization and an expert on the issue. "Diploma mills are a huge problem. They are an international problem. It doesn't matter where they are operating from."

      Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the District-based American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said it will take time for officials and watchdog agencies to review the list and identify who is on it and what jobs they might have obtained with the use of a phony degree.

      "It's one of those crimes that is low on the priority list because people think, 'Who cares?' " Nassirian said. "I think once we fully absorb this list, we will find some pretty compelling reasons why we should care. . . . My guess is we are going to find some really scary stories."

      Homeland Security officials had refused to release the list but provided it to state attorneys general last weekend. Education officials in Virginia, Maryland and the District said yesterday they had not seen the list.

      The case was investigated by a task force involving more than a half-dozen federal agencies, including the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington state. Court documents show that investigators served search warrants in the case after it was discovered that many of the phony degrees were purchased by people in Saudi Arabia.

      In addition to Virginia, 11 states, including Texas, Oregon, New Jersey, Washington and Nevada, forbid fraudulent use of phony degrees, Contreras said.

      "People who buy diplomas from diploma mills are not victims; they are co-conspirators," Nassirian said. "People who fall prey to shoddy trade schools, they are victims. They think they are going to a real school, and they get ripped off. But people who pick up the phone and call and order themselves a master's degree in nursing know they are not nurses."

      Post database editor Sarah Cohen contributed to this report.


    • Medical professionals with fake degrees?, Adam Wilson, Tacoma, Washington News Tribune, August 1, 2008.


      The state Department of Health is checking the records of hundreds of thousands of state-licensed medical professionals to make sure they didn't receive diplomas from a defunct Spokane outfit that handed out fake degrees. The Department of Health, which licenses 300,000 medical professionals, has been given a database of information on the nearly 10,000 people known to have bought the diplomas, Donn Moyer of the department said this week.

      One state employee's name is in the database, but that person isn't a medical professional, Moyer said. If medical professionals are found to have purchased degrees, they wouldn't necessarily lose their licenses.

      "We still have to have evidence that you're not fit to practice," Moyer said.

      The state worker who bought a degree didn't use it to get his job or a promotion, according to the Department of Social and Health Services.

      "If somebody did have one of those degrees in their personnel file, and they didn't use that degree to misrepresent themselves ... then we wouldn't take any action," said agency spokeswoman Kathy Spears.

      Checking a list of 9,600 names of diploma-mill customers against the names of more than 100,000 state and public workers, The Olympian found 94 matches.

      But the worker list and the degree buyers appeared to be different people who share the same names.

      Government prosecutors have a more-detailed database of information on customers of the diploma mill, but they declined to make it public.

      The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane posted the list of customers' names this week without disclosing how the newspaper obtained the list. The paper found 191 customers who worked in government, including more than 130 in the military, by checking e-mail addresses discovered by prosecutors.

      Dixie Ellen Randock, a high school dropout who headed the diploma-mill operation, was sentenced last month to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.


    • CPS instructor, Berwyn cops turn up on list of possible bogus degree recipients, Russell Working and Jodi S. Cohen, Chicago, Illinois Chicago Tribune, August 5, 2008.


      A federal list of suspected buyers of bogus degrees from a Washington state criminal diploma scheme includes a Chicago Public Schools instructor and five current or former Berwyn police officers—at least one of whom allegedly sought city reimbursement for his bogus PhD in criminal justice, the Tribune has learned.

      While it is not illegal to buy a phony degree, Illinois law forbids claiming false academic credentials for professional advancement or higher compensation.

      The Junior ROTC instructor for CPS, now on leave for an unrelated matter, received a raise from the school district in 2003 based on a PhD and master's degree allegedly bought from diploma mills affiliated with the fictional "St. Regis University." The police officers received their degrees from the same scheme in 2001-02, and at least some of them allegedly benefited financially, according to a city official.

      Because the CPS instructor and Berwyn officers have not been charged with crimes, the Tribune is not naming them.

      The names of the instructor and police officers—among them a former high-ranking administrator and a former sergeant—appeared on a list of 9,600 possible buyers of bogus degrees compiled from computers seized as part of Operation Gold Seal, a federal case that led to guilty pleas by eight conspirators who sold fake degrees from St. Regis and other fictional colleges with buyers from as far away as China and Papua New Guinea.

      While CPS military instructors do not need to have college degrees, they—like Berwyn police officers—receive higher salaries if they have advanced degrees.

      CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn said the school district plans a probe. "We will now investigate the authenticity of that degree," he said. "He is paid at a level that equates to people with a master's degree in that position."

      The instructor's salary was $76,000 a year before he went on unpaid leave in March 2007, Vaughn said.

      Officials in Berwyn have been aware of the degree claims since federal officials phoned them in 2005 regarding the Spokane investigation.

      Operation Gold Seal is creating shock waves nationwide, from small-town City Halls to federal bureaucracies, as officials learn about claims to specious degrees. The federal government has not released the list to the public, but the Tribune obtained a copy from a state agency.

      Buyers of degrees from the scheme, operated by Dixie and Steven Randock Sr. and their employees, did little or no academic work, said Thomas Rice, an assistant U.S. attorney in Spokane, Wash., who helped prosecute the case.

      Prices for the fake degrees ranged from several hundred dollars to more than $2,000 for a PhD.

      The investigation included a number of bizarre twists. The operators of the degree mill, seeking to place themselves outside U.S. jurisdiction, have pleaded guilty to bribing Liberian officials in order to gain accreditation from that country. Liberian officials did not respond to requests for comment.

      While investigators focused on nailing the operators of the scheme, the buyers—deemed "suspects" by the U.S. attorney's office—included hundreds of local, state and federal employees. The federal government left it up to local jurisdictions to determine whether a crime had been committed and whether to pursue charges, Rice said.

      "You can buy a phony degree," Rice said.

      "That's not a crime. . . . It's the use of it that's a crime, and the use is generally a false statement to an employer."

      Berwyn officials said the two officers still with the department did not use the fake degrees for pay increases or promotions, but some of the now-retired officers did.

      "I know some of them did receive extra compensation and extra stipend in their pay," Berwyn Mayor Michael O'Connor said Monday. "I don't think any of them used them for promotions. . . . The contract allowed for an increased stipend if you had a bachelor's degree, an increased stipend if you had a master's degree."

      None of the police officers was disciplined because they agreed to drop their claims to the degrees, because the fake degrees were bought under a previous mayoral administration and because O'Connor said the city was seeking to put years of political acrimony behind it.

      "I'm very confident now that all of this diploma mill stuff is over and done with," said Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner, who was hired in 2006.

      A retired division commander officer even submitted to the city a $1,900 tuition reimbursement request for his allegedly fake PhD in criminal justice. His supervisor, who also allegedly had a fake degree, approved the expense, said Pat Segel, director of human resources.

      None of the police officers whose names appeared on the list would comment or could be reached for comment.

      Tribune reporters James Kimberly and Darnell Little and researcher Lelia Arnheim contributed to this report. Freelance reporter Joseph Ruzich also contributed.


    • Bellingham engineering contractor may have phony degree, Sam Taylor, Bellingham, Washington, The Bellingham Herald, August 6, 2008.


      City officials have put an on-call engineering contract with a local firm on hold after The Bellingham Herald disclosed that the company's vice president may not have legitimate credentials.

      The vice president of Apollo Geophysics, Matthew C. Ringstad, appears to be on a list of people who purchased fake degrees from a diploma mill based out of Spokane. The list of more than 9,800 buyers was made public by the Spokane Spokesman-Review, though the U.S. Department of Justice had previously refused to give it up. A trusted source leaked the list to the Spokesman-Review, said Jim Camden, one of the reporters who worked on the story.

      "The list is as accurate as the federal government made it," Camden said when asked how confident he was of the list's veracity. "It's a federal government-compiled database as a result of their investigation (into the mill)."

      A Matthew C. Ringstad purchased a bachelor of arts degree, according to the diploma mill list, though no other detail is given.

      Matthew Ringstad did not return a phone message left at the Apollo Geophysics office Tuesday, Aug. 5, nor did he or Lynn Ringstad - his wife and company owner and president - return an e-mail from a reporter left the same day. A receptionist at the Apollo office, 314 E. Holly St., Suite 207, said both were not in the office Wednesday, Aug. 6. A reporter got the same response when visiting the office Wednesday.

      However, last week Matthew Ringstad told The News Tribune in Tacoma that he wasn't aware of the diploma mill list and pointed out that there are many people with the same name.

      But Matthew Ringstad used an e-mail address with the domain in communications with the diploma mill, Camden confirmed.

      Apollo Geophysics provides applied geological and geophysical exploration, nondestructive testing, environmental services and equipment rental, according to the company's Web site.

      Bellingham's purchasing superintendent, Joan Cady, said that there are no receipts on file to show that the company has actually done any work for the city yet.

      However, Ringstad lists in his experience in a request for qualifications document to the city that he performed "geophysical investigation, seismic refraction" and ground penetrating radar work during 2005 renovations to The Federal Building in downtown Bellingham. He was paid $2,500, according to the document. Cady said she believes he worked as a subcontractor under another firm which actually did the work, so the city doesn't have a record of his work.

      "Apollo isn't doing any work for us now and won't be until this is resolved," said City Public Works Director Dick McKinley.

      Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike said that while the contract is on hold with the company, it's not yet canceled.

      "For one thing, there's the principle of innocent until proven guilty," Pike said. "Does he have other certification that legitimizes his qualifications from a credentialed school? Was there any fraud involved?

      "There's a number of questions that I can't answer right now," the mayor said. "Obviously the integrity of our consultants is important to us, just as is the integrity of our employees."

      A Clyde A. Ringstad also shows up on the list as having purchased a fake Ph.D. Clyde A. Ringstad also worked at one time for Apollo Geophysics, and gave a presentation to the state Department of Transportation on vibration monitoring for structures in 2004. Matthew and Lynn Ringstad were also at that presentation, according to WSDOT documents.

      Camden said Clyde Ringstad also used an Apollo Geophysics e-mail address to communicate with the diploma mill.

      Clyde A. Ringstad was reached by phone Tuesday, Aug. 5, but seemed to have trouble hearing. He handed the phone to his wife, who said he had been mowing the lawn and would call back later. Ringstad never returned the phone call. An e-mail message sent to him seeking comment also was not returned.

      Matthew Ringstad has offered up different versions of his educational background. He told The News Tribune that he earned a political science degree in California, but that he would "rather not say" what college it came from.

      On the application to get the work with the city of Bellingham, Ringstad is listed as the company's senior geophysicist, and states that he has a bachelor of science degree in computer science from Whitman College, a liberal arts college in Walla Walla. Ringstad only attended Whitman College for one year in 1990, he never picked a major and never graduated, according to a registration assistant in Whitman College's registrar's office.

      The same application states that Ringstad did site response and seismic hazard assessment work for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Hanford nuclear site.

      Ringstad is 36, according to voter registration records. His biography page at Apollo Geophysics' Web site states: "Matthew brings 20 years of experience in designing and implementing Geophysical Field exploration programs and developing state of the art data analysis programs and algorithms." On the application to the city, Ringstad states he has 23 years of experience, making him a young teen when he started.

      Western Washington University confirmed that Lynn Ringstad earned both bachelor's and master's degrees in geology, as she listed on the application to the city of Bellingham. She is also a licensed geologist, which was confirmed using the state Department of Licensing's online database.

      Apollo Geophysics is on the engineering rosters of several other municipalities, including the city of Vancouver, Wash., and King County. It has applied to do work in Portland, Ore., too, according to records on the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce's Web site. It's unclear if the company has actually done work for Vancouver, though Brian Carlson, the city's public works director, said he didn't think so. The company did work for King County during a 2004 bridge project, according to a report prepared for the King County Department of Transportation by another consultant.

      Matthew Ringstad was the field manager on behalf of the company during that project.


    • The Names on the Dishonor Roll, Andy Guess, Washington DC, Inside Higher Ed, August 1, 2008.


      News of the list spread quickly

      Released this week by The Spokesman-Review, of Spokane, Wash., it contains almost 10,000 names of people believed to have purchased degrees from an illegal diploma mill that shut down in 2005. So when it became clear that dozens of the names could be traced to e-mail addresses that end in ."edu," the possibility that there could be instructors in academe who were hired under false pretenses — a degree from an unaccredited, or worse, nonexistent institution — left some administrators nervous that they would receive that dreaded phone call about a beloved professor...


    • Illinoisans got diploma mill 'degrees', Amanda Erickson, Washington Bureau, Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2008.



      That must be how the 142 Illinois residents who may have paid an Internet-based diploma mill for 'proof' they graduated from high school or college must feel...


    • Former Minnesota nuclear power plant employee outed as diploma-buying fraudster, Jonathan Kaminsky, Minneapolis, MN CityPages, July 30, 2008.


      Happily for us--but less so for our cheese-loving neighbors to the east--the man who reportedly bought bogus degrees in nuclear engineering and accounting has found a new job. At a Wisconsin nuclear power plant. In the control room.

      Before we go any further, let us back up for a moment. In 2005, a federal grand jury in Washington state indicted eight people on charges of running a diploma mill and issuing thousands of fake degrees from colleges and universities both real and make-believe. All eight were eventually convicted, and last month the ringleader of the operation was sentenced to three years in prison.

      Which left one big question unanswered: Who were their customers?

      Frustratingly, the government refused to say. But yesterday, the Spokane Spokesman-Review published the complete list of names with an accompanying article highlighting some of the biggest eyebrow-raisers.

      Included among the nearly 10,000 fake diploma buyers are members of the National Security Agency, the CIA, and even NASA. Perhaps the most interesting name on the list, however, is that of Duwayne Huss. In the article, Huss is described as:


      an employee of Nuclear Management Co., operator of two nuclear plants in Minnesota, [who] bought degrees in nuclear engineering and accounting.

      "I can't give you information about our employees," company spokeswoman Mary [Sandok] said Monday when asked if Huss was still employed.

      Nuclear Management Co. is contracted by Xcel Energy to run its two nuclear power plants, Monticello and Prairie Island. This morning, Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen told City Pages that Huss hasn't worked for Nuclear Management Co. for more than three years--since right around the time the feds were sinking their teeth into the diploma mill.

      Hoen wouldn't say what Huss's job was at Nuclear Management Co., nor would he say whether Huss quit or was fired. All of which strikes us as pretty dumb. If he was a pencil pusher who was fired when his fraud was uncovered, then good. If he was in charge of making sure the place didn't melt down and left of his own volition, well, that's embarrassing and scary and, if true, will in all likelihood come to light in due time.

      But there's more:

      After parting ways with Nuclear Management Co., Huss secured employment at the Kewaunee Power Station in eastern Wisconsin. A call to the nuclear plant confirms that Huss is currently employed in its control room, although the receptionist declined to say in what capacity.

      The nuclear power plant is owned by Dominion, which describes itself on its website as "one of the nation's largest producers of energy."

      We've got calls out to the big cheeses of the company to ask if they're aware that a control room worker at one of their nuclear plants seems to have a make-believe degree in nuclear engineering. We'll let you know what they say when we hear back.

      Also, messages left for Huss at what appears to be his home phone number were not returned.

      UPDATE: Xcel has released more information about Huss's stint at Nuclear Management Co. Here's the email that Tom Hoen, Xcel's spokesman, just sent our way:

      "Mr. Huss has not worked for Nuclear Management Co for three years. He never worked for Xcel Energy, nor did he ever have access to or work at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island or Monticello nuclear plants."


    • Newspaper publishes list of alleged buyers of phony college degrees , Doug Stanglin, USA Today, July 30, 2008.


      The Spokesman-Review of Spokane reports that hundreds of people working in the military, government and education are on a list of almost 10,000 people who spent $7.3 million buying phony and counterfeit high school and college degrees from a Spokane diploma mill.

      The newspaper also publishes what it calls a complete list of the names of many who allegedly bought the phony degrees. The Spokesman-Review says it obtained the list after the U.S. Department of Justice refused to release it to the public. The list includes employees from a number of government institutions, including the CIA, the National Security Agency and NASA. The newspaper says a senior military adviser working in the White House is also on the list.

      Investigators, who uncovered the diplomat mill in 2005, are forwarding the list to all 50 state attorneys general and other agencies, the newspaper says.

      The Associated Press reports that, according to court documents, the on-line diploma mill sold counterfeit copies of degrees and transcripts from legitimate universities as well as from phony institutions.

      The AP says that the ringleader of the operation was sentenced this month to three years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.


    • Ohioans Listed In Nationwide Diploma Mill: Nearly 10,000 people across the [golbe] are listed as buying or trying to buy counterfeit diplomas. , Nicole Franks, Ohio 610 WTVN, July 30, 2008.


      Federal investigators are looking into a list of nearly 10,000 names that are linked to buying or trying to buy fake diplomas from a Washington State ring.

      The list contains the names of nearly 130 Ohioans, including Bart G. Anderson, executive director and superintendent of the Educational Service Center of Franklin County.

      Anderson received a bogus doctorate in 2002. He tells 610 WTVN's Nicole Franks that he knew something was wrong when he applied to the online program.

      "I applied to that institution," he said. "Soon after making my application fee, receiving the packet of materials, paying my first installment I was starting to realize something was suspicious. I realized soon enough that this institution was one that falsified their credentials."

      Anderson says he went on to obtain his doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania in 2006.

      He says he has never referred to the St. Regis diploma on any job applications.

      The Spokesman-Review reports the eight people who ran the diploma mill were indicted and convicted of federal crimes. The story also says state agencies in all 50 states will be sent the list of names...


    • 14 Kenyans probed over fake US degrees, Samuel Otieno, Nairobi, Kenya The Standard, July 31, 2008.


      Fourteen Kenyans are among 10,000 people being investigated by security agencies in the US for buying fake degree certificates with which they have acquired key jobs, including in the military.

      The Kenyans under investigation, alongside other foreigners, are now staring at long jail terms if found guilty, deportation or humiliation among peers and family when they return home. In total, the suspects being investigated spent a staggering Sh500 million ($7.3m) to acquire the fake documents.

      The Kenyans under investigations are Amunga Justus Mully, who bought an MBA, Aseno George Onyango (BA), Gitau Patrick W (BA), Kirusara Mwandi Patrick (BA), a Mohammed (BA) and Muriithi Andrew Njeru (BA).

      Others are Oluchiri George (DBA), Omollo Joseph Odindo (BBA), Omukaba Martin (BS), Omukuenyi Hassan Nathan (BS), Omuluba Martin (BS), Ongunya Vitalis Omanyo (BBA), Oyer Omoro William (BBA) and Wachira Jenard Leo (MBA).

      The revelations put the Commission for Higher Education (CHE) on high alert and it told employers to be on the lookout over the influx of foreign degree certificates.

      Thousands of other Kenyans holding fake degrees have since joined plum jobs back home where they are unfairly edging out competent, locally trained employees.

      The certificates, acquired from what are popularly referred to as 'diploma mills' in the US, have since landed the fake degree holders on lucrative jobs in America and other postings abroad.

      Others have been propelled to promotions in their respective places of work.

      Senior Kenyans involved

      When The Standard contacted the Kenyan Embassy in Washington DC, the deputy Head of Mission, Mr Galma Boru, could not comment on the saga, saying the ambassador, Mr Oginga Ogego, who was the only one who could speak on the matter, was in a meeting.

      The most shocking revelation of the scandalous intellectual fraud is that some senior Kenyans, including politicians, have been decorated with fake papers where some are being referred as 'doctors' and 'professors'.

      The 14 Kenyans under investigation, some holding what are supposed to be respected Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree certificates, are among hundreds of people working in the US military, government and education sector.

      Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula said the Government was not aware of the matter, but had launched investigation to establish the details of the scandal.

      At the same time, Education ministry's Director of Quality Assurance and Standards Enos Oyaya declined to comment over the matter.

      "I do not comment on issues over the telephone because I must refer to the policies and I am outside the office now," Oyaya said when reached on the telephone.

      However, the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) said it only equates diploma and certificates offered by other examination boards outside the country.

      "The certificates and diplomas must be from an accredited examination body authorised by the law," said Knec Chief Executive Officer Paul Wasanga.

      According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the suspects are being investigated for buying counterfeit degrees from colleges and universities or bogus degrees from non-existent online high schools, colleges and universities.

      Normally, the US Homeland Security does not release information on cases it is investigating. It is now considering pursuing charges against about 300 US federal employees who bought bogus or counterfeit degrees.

      Investigators are considering using a federal law that allows them to charge individuals who fraudulently obtain credentials giving them access to jobs in US government facilities.

      An official at the US Embassy in Nairobi said they had not been notified over the investigation and referred The Standard to the Kenyan embassy in Washington and the Department of Homeland Security in the US.

      "Anything like that is usually handled by the Homeland Security and we would have no idea if it is not released to us," said Mr T J Dowling, counsellor for public affairs at the embassy.

      But reached in Seattle on Monday by a US Internet newspaper, Spokseman Review, Homeland Security Spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said: "We are aware of this issue, and we will take the appropriate action. But because it's an ongoing investigation, I cannot discuss the specifics with you at this time."

      The revelations raise concern over the number of people who process such certificates and use them to acquire jobs in Kenya and abroad.

      Ms Eliza Chege, an assistant secretary with the Commission for Higher Education, said: "Employers have become cautious of the new trend of seeking higher education in foreign institutions. That is why they must come and verify with us."

      Chege said the Teachers Service Commission was their regular customer since many teachers had resorted to further studies to earn promotions and higher perks.

      She said the commission examines the content of training programmes Kenyans obtain abroad.

      This, she said, was to equate the content and achievement levels with those in the local university system.

      "To this effect, the commission has guidelines for standardisation, equation and recognition of degrees and diplomas," said Chege.

      The complete list of buyers, which the US Department of Justice has refused to release to the public, was obtained and published by The Spokesman-Review.

      "There are people in high places with these degrees, and only one of them has been charged with a crime," a source familiar with the list told the Spokesman-Review, an online paper celebrating its 12 anniversary this year.

      A preliminary analysis of the list by the paper shows 135 individuals with ties to the military, 39 to educational institutions and 17 employed by government agencies.

      The numbers were derived from e-mail addresses that are part of the list obtained by the newspaper.

      However, the exact number of people with ties to the military, government and education is believed to be far greater because many buyers used personal e-mail accounts.

      Eight people who set up and operated the Diploma Mill, including ringleader Dixie Ellen Randock, were indicted and convicted of federal crimes.

      The conmen sold thousands of counterfeit degrees and transcripts from legitimate colleges, and phony degrees and transcripts from non-existent online universities and schools.


    • Exposed: 36 in S'pore [Singapore] named for buying fake degrees and diplomas , Sandra Davie, Singapore, Straits Times, August 11, 2008.


      RETIRED secondary school teacher, two private school teachers, an IT manager, and two businessmen were among 36 names from Singapore on a list of people exposed in the United States for buying fake diplomas and degrees. The 9,612 names were taken from computers seized as part of Operation Gold Seal, a US Federal case that led to eight people pleading guilty to conspiracy to sell fake degrees from St Regis University and other fictional colleges based in rural Washington state.

      The husband and wife ringleaders, Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock, have been sentenced to three years in prison.

      The Washington-based newspaper, The Spokesman Review, ran the full list of names on its website on July 28. Buyers had paid the degree mill US$250 to US$5,400 (S$350 to S$7,500) for bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as doctorates...

      The Straits Times contacted more than a dozen of those on the list and confirmed that six had bought the degrees. Four of the six had listed the degrees in their resumes.

      Two admitted they had degrees from the listed universities but claimed they were unaware that these were degree mills.

      The Education Ministry said it will investigate the case of the teacher to establish if any offence has been committed. But it said preliminary checks show that the teacher, who was recruited as a non-graduate teacher, had not used the 'degree' in question for placement.

      MOE said the teacher is currently re-employed as a non-graduate contract adjunct teacher.

      Businessman David Tan Leng Huat said he had merely enquired about a degree from St Regis University but had not paid anything.

      Private school teacher David Nelson Samuel said he paid more than S$4,000 for a BA from St Regis University, but only found out later that it was unrecognised.

      A Mr Joseph Ferguson was listed as a trainer at the Asian Life Skills Centre at North Bridge Road which runs courses for English Language teachers. His credentials include a BA (Business) and MA (Education) from St Lourdes University, one of the exposed degree mills.

      But the centre's managing director Joseph Chee said the American had left the centre last year and expressed surprise at his fake credentials.

      Dr Tan Tee Khoon, a Christian author and head of Knight Frank Property Network, said he is not the Tan Tee Khoon named for having bought a Master's in Divinity.

      Dr Tan, who has a PhD in marketing from Templeton University, New York, said he was 'aggrieved' when he heard someone with his name was on the list.


    • AG's Office Investigating Diploma Mill, Gant Daily, Clearfield, Pennsylvania, August 14, 2008.


      HARRISBURG — Attorney General Tom Corbett announced Thursday that the Office of Attorney General is currently reviewing information related to more than 135 Pennsylvania residents recently identified as part of a federal investigation into an Internet scheme to sell thousands of bogus high school and university degrees.

      "Using falsified credentials to obtain state certification for various jobs jeopardizes the health and safety of Pennsylvania residents," Corbett said. "The Office of Attorney General will work with other state agencies to determine if any of the individuals named in this investigation have used fraudulent degrees improperly."

      Corbett noted that the federal investigation focused on a degree-selling business based in Spokane, Washington, often known as Saint Regis University. As part of that investigation, federal prosecutors developed information about more than 9,000 "students" who may have purchased degrees from Saint Regis University or other fictitious institutions.

      "At least 135 people used Pennsylvania addresses to obtain their degrees from Saint Regis University or other fictitious schools," Corbett said. "We are reviewing information about those degree purchases and will contact other state agencies if it appears that questionable degrees have been used inappropriately."

      Corbett said the list of university degrees allegedly purchased by Pennsylvania residents as part of this scheme include Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Guidance & Counseling, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement, Addiction Therapy & Treatment, Occupational Health & Safety, Medical Technology, Electrical Engineering and numerous other professions. The degrees include high school diplomas, college bachelors and masters degrees, along with several doctorate degrees.

      Corbett explained that the Attorney General's Office has a history of aggressively investigating degree falsification cases, including the closure of an Erie-based "diploma mill," know as the "University of Berkley" in 2005, along with the criminal prosecution of individuals accused of falsifying official state certifications.

      "Fraudulent degrees destroy the credibility of educational institutions that offer Pennsylvanians legitimate classroom or online instruction to help improve their knowledge and skills," Corbett said. "Bogus 'diploma mills' also enable unscrupulous individuals to use these degrees to misrepresent their educational background, enhance their credibility and falsely enhance their employment or promotion opportunities."


    • 10 NZers buy fake online degrees, Lincoln Tan and Martha McKenzie-Minifie, Auckland, New Zealand, The New Zealand Herald, August 16, 2008.


      A New Zealand primary school principal, his human resources director brother and a security guard are among 10 New Zealand names on a list of buyers of bogus United States university degrees.

      The names were among 9612 found on computers seized as part of Operation Gold Seal, a US Federal case, which led to eight people pleading guilty to operating the scam.

      Prices for the bogus degrees ranged from a few hundred dollars for bachelor's and master's to US$5400 ($7,770) for a PhD.

      One of the buyers, Mark Barratt, principal of Papatoetoe South School and chair of Auckland Primary Principals Committee on Special Education, said he bought the fake PhD "just for the fun of it", after his brother Shaun, a director at human resources company Salt, bought a bachelor's degree.

      "We were just being stupid _ there was never an intention to use them to mislead or defraud," said Mr Barratt, who is also a member of the Auckland District Committee of New Zealand Education.

      "I've never used it or claimed to have a doctorate, and the doctorate's sitting in a box at home, somewhere."

      Although checks by the Weekend Herald found that Mr Barratt did not list his PhD when applying for his job, the Parent and Family Resource Centre website, of which he is a member, had said "his doctorate explores conflict between governance and management within the NZ primary schooling sector", and that "he is currently completing a second doctorate looking at models of governance."

      But following Weekend Herald enquiries, the copy on the website was replaced with: "Mark is currently researching two thesis that will form the basis of a doctorate."

      Mr Barratt said he holds master's degrees in Religious Education and Education, but denied that he had ever claimed he had a PhD. He said the copy on the website was changed because he "wanted to get rid of any ambiguity around it."

      Papatoetoe South School board of trustees chairman Adrian West confirmed Mr Barratt did not claim the phoney degree when he applied for the principal role last year.

      For another buyer, security guard Jagath Nambukara, it was a different story. Mr Nambukara, who spent more than $5000 over two years to get his BBA degree from St Regis University, said he did not know it came from a degree mill.

      "I cannot believe what I have now is just a piece of rubbish," he said.

      "It is not just the money, but I also spent a lot of time studying and submitting the assignments the university sent me through emails."

      By accessing the website and paying fees of between US$399 and US$2454, students could be "evaluated" for a degree _ which the US Justice Department has identified as being done by a high-school dropout named Heidi Kae Lorhan.

      The "university" also supported buyers by providing other services, including telephone calls to confirm the degrees were valid.

      Husband and wife ringleaders Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock have been sentenced to three years in prison and buyers of the fake degrees have been deemed as "suspects" by the US attorney's office, Mr Thomas Rice, criminal chief at the US Department of Justice told the Weekend Herald.

      But Mr Rice said the US Government was leaving it to individual jurisdictions to determine whether a crime had been committed.

      NZ Police spokesman Jon Neilson said it was not illegal to buy fake degrees online, but purchasers that used them could face fraud charges.

      The 10 from New Zealand who bought fake degrees: Scott, Alan T _ BA; Reid, Donald Erik _ MEd; Ryan, Stephen John _ MBA; Morton, David John _ PhD; Nambukara, Jagath C _ BBA; Jie, Li Liang _ BS; Barratt, Mark Raymond _ PhD; Barratt, Shaun Francis _ BA; Beck, Andrew David Patrick _ PhD; Brickland, Daniel _ ProfFull


    • Fake-degree mill in US leads to Saudi inquest, Fatima Sidiya, Saudi Arabia Arab News, August 21, 2008.


      JEDDAH: A long list of people who had purchased or attempted to purchase fake university diplomas in the United States has spurred the Saudi education authorities to launch an investigation into the issue of Saudis and expatriates who may be working in the Kingdom on counterfeit certificates.

      However, Shoura Council member Abdullah Al-Tuwairqi called the reaction to the list "disappointing," and expressed concern that education officials would have a death-by-committee mentality in addressing the issue.

      The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Washington state recently obtained and posted online a list of nearly 10,000 names of people who had spent $7.3 million on purchasing or attempting to purchase fake diplomas from an illegal operation. The US Department of Justice shut down the illegal enterprise and compiled a list of its clients. The list was then leaked to the newspaper, which posted it online at:

      The list contains at least 70 Saudis, or persons who listed their country of residence as Saudi Arabia. For example, one of the names on the list is a Saudi woman who bought degrees in obstetrics and gynecology. The newspaper reported that US federal investigators do not know if the woman is currently working as a medical doctor in the Kingdom.

      Deputy Minister of Higher Education Muhammad Al-Ouhali told Al-Watan newspaper that the ministry would investigate people on the list who may be working in Saudi Arabia on fake documents. He said that if the US Department of Justice's list were accurate then Saudi education officials would take necessary action.

      Al-Tuwairqi lambasted newspapers for publishing advertisements from institutes promising college diplomas without background checks. He blames both the government and the media for promoting these illegitimate operations that churn out unqualified degree holders who then "unfairly" compete with people who worked hard for their academic achievements at real universities.

      Abdullah Al-Qahtani, head of the Certificates Accreditation Department at the Ministry of Higher Education, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that his department had won an approval from higher authorities to form an investigative committee. The committee would include members from the Ministry of Higher Education, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Culture and Information, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Labor and would also receive assistance from the King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology.

      "The Ministry of Higher Education expresses its worries regarding the increasing number of agencies that lure students into nonexisting universities and obtaining unaccredited certificates," said Al-Qahtani, referring to the issue of local unaccredited institutions and degree mills.

      Al-Qahtani also said the Ministry of Higher Education is now consulting the Ministry of Culture and Information to put a stop to the publication of advertisements from unaccredited institutions offering sketchy diplomas. He also called on newspapers and magazines to cooperate with the Ministry of Culture and Information to ensure the accuracy of information provided by universities that want to advertise their services.

      According to Al-Watan, there are roughly 18 branches of unauthorized universities, with over 5,000 students in the Kingdom. Last year, 70 staff members at different girls' colleges around the Kingdom were fired for having fake diplomas.


  • Online college used by West Middlesex teachers questioned, Patrick W. Connelly, Sharon, Pennsylvania Herald, July 24, 2008.


    The quality of an online outlet West Middlesex teachers are using to work toward master's degrees is being called into question, board President Thomas Hubert said.

    At least ten teachers used allowances provided through the district's tuition reimbursement plan to take online courses from Idaho-based Canyon College, Hubert said.

    The institution is a Web-based operation that top officials in education around the country have dubbed a "diploma mill," news reports say.

    A teacher with a master's degree in West Middlesex makes about $2,400 more a year than those without, an outline of their contract says.

    Six teachers — Brenda Brooks, Brad Mild, Chad Mild, Nicole Nych, Edward Pikna and Mike Williams — were each reimbursed $2,400 in June for courses completed through Canyon, a record of board expenses shows.

    The online college isn't listed among over 250 outlets legally authorized to grant degrees in Pennsylvania, according to a roster compiled by the state Department of Education.

    Hubert said another four teachers in the past few months were also reimbursed the same amount for classes through Canyon and all teachers had been approved prior to starting the courses by Superintendent Alan Baldarelli.

    Hubert said he wasn't aware that any teachers had completed master's degrees through Canyon or been awarded pay increases.

    The board didn't question its Canyon because they believed Baldarelli, who was unavailable for comment Thursday, already had checked out Canyon, Hubert said.

    The state Department of Education regulates teacher certification but allows individual school districts to distinguish the legitimacy of a master's degree, said Michael Race, the agency's deputy press secretary.

    Teachers in Pennsylvania are required to complete 180 hours of professional development every five years related to their specialty to stay certified, Race said.

    "There are various ways to meet it," he said, noting teachers have other options than taking classes toward a master's degree.

    A teacher who pursued a master's degree at a local college alerted school directors earlier this month her colleagues were taking online courses toward the same degree in a program that was much shorter, Hubert said.

    Race said he's unaware of any problems created by Canyon College in the state or of teachers in other districts using the Web site to get degrees.

    The state "wouldn't have any role in accrediting Canyon College," Race said. The institution is headquartered in Caldwell, Idaho, its Web site says.

    The institution is independent and provides students distant opportunities to acquire a degree from 80 programs, said Phil, a director of administrator services at the college who declined to give his last name.

    "We have good master's programs and you can put us up across the board as far as course content," he said.

    The institution has created more than one headache for many west coast departments of education, said Alan L. Contreres, an administrator with the Oregon state Office of Degree Authorization in Eugene.

    Contreres said he's found himself at odds with the college several times.

    "They've been rattling around there for ten years," he said. "The state of Idaho doesn't list it as an approved school."

    Ten states consider a degree obtained from the college to be fraudulent, Contreres said.

    Williams said he's certain Canyon College is accredited and is coming under fire because of an unfamiliarity with both the institution and online classes.

    "It's not 1950 anymore when you have to have a teacher or a professor," Williams said. "I stand behind what we're doing."

    West Middlesex teachers are eligible to be reimbursed for up to $2,400 in continuing education costs each year and are given the money within 30 days of showing proof of satisfactory course completion, their contract says.

    Teachers were encouraged to use the Canyon College program by two colleagues, math teacher Mark D. Hogue and former social studies teacher Joseph W. Pasquerilla, Hubert said.

    Hogue and Pasquerilla distributed fliers to teachers advertising Canyon College, Hubert said. The fliers list Hogue as the institution's curriculum coordinator. They identify Pasquerilla, as "Dr. Pasquerilla," program director, and show e-mail addresses for both men with the college. Hubert said he didn't know if Pasquerilla's graduate degree came from Canyon.

    The fliers say teachers can form "cohorts" of four to 12 teachers who can work together on degrees and submit assignments as a unit.

    Pasquerilla referred comment to Canyon College's hierarchy and a message left for Hogue wasn't immediately returned.

    Pasquerilla, whose father is Brookfield school board President Joseph Pasquerilla, left the district earlier this summer to take a principal's position with North Hills School District in Ross Township, a Pittsburgh suburb, Hubert said.

    Williams said he completed five classes through the Web site this spring and is hoping to finish a master's degree in special education.

    Williams said the program's been a plus and inspired him to be a better teacher.

    The classes are "really no different" than those administered at Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV in Grove City. The course work isn't as easy as people think and is helping him and others better serve the students, he said.

    Hubert said he disagrees with the validity of any accreditation the institution may have and questions the taxpayers' funding of it.

    School directors also alerted Southwest Mercer County Regional police and District Attorney Robert Kochems of the situation, Hubert said.

    The board meets next at 7 p.m. Monday in the band room at Oakview Elementary School.


  • Stabbing suspect found unconscious; trial delayed, Sue Lindsay, Denver, Colorado Rocky Mountain News, July 25, 2008.


    A woman on trial for stabbing her estranged husband in the back was found unconscious in her apartment this morning...

    Nancy Bautista had attempted suicide in May, and had been suicidal in the months before the trial, her attorney said.

    Defense attorney Michael Ferber said her doctor spoke with her Thursday evening at 7 p.m. and she was "in great spirits."

    But the defense case took a bad turn Thursday afternoon when a key expert, Roger Carlson, took the stand and admitted that his doctorate in psychology came from a diploma mill in Texas. Carlson was to testify that Nancy Bautista was under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the attack on her husband and that her troubles could be traced to an abusive childhood.

    Jefferson County investigator Russ Boatright said he was able to obtain his own Ph.D. in psychology in less than 24 hours from Carlson's alma mater, Belford University, which he said also offers applicants a near-perfect grade-point average for an additional $75 fee.

    Ferber said he just found out about the background of his expert Thursday. "It was a total shock," said Ferber. He said Carlson has several clinics in metro area and he has sent clients there in the past...

    More information: I was offered a doctoral degree in Thoracic Surgery by Belford in recognition of my life experiences reading the newspaper and watching the evening news on television.


  • Schools chief's doctorate reviewed: Breyer State called "apparent diploma mill", Joshua Riley, Asbury Park, New Jersey, Asbury Park Press, July 17, 2008.


    The state Department of Education is reviewing the validity of doctoral degrees obtained by the Freehold Regional High School superintendent and another administrator. The degrees were issued by an online school that Alabama officials this week chastened as an "apparent diploma mill."

    Superintendent H. James Wasser, 58, and assistant superintendent Donna Evangelista, 50, both received degrees in the past two years from Breyer State University, which was based in Alabama at the time.

    Former assistant superintendent Frank J. Tanzini, 58, also received a degree from Breyer before his recent retirement — after receiving a raise for being awarded a doctorate degree.

    Alabama did not renew Breyer State's operating license last month as part of a crackdown on diploma mills, according to the Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education.

    "One of (Breyer State's) many violations included conferring honorary doctorates on individuals based on life and work experience, a one-time application fee and a monetary contribution to the institution," the postsecondary education department said in a statement this week. "The institution offers an unheard of self-design degree program that allows the creation of a curriculum based on mentoring."

    Breyer State and another cited institution were "apparent diploma mills . . . taking shameful advantage of hundreds of unsuspecting students,"

    Alabama officials said in the statement.

    Freehold Regional paid $8,700 total in tuition so all three administrators could do course work with Breyer State. The school has moved to an office suite in Boise, Idaho. Calls to the school, picked up by an answering service, were not returned.

    The tuition reimbursements for the three administrators were paid after Breyer State submitted invoices with the misspelling "Reciept" in bold letters at the top of the page.

    The New Jersey Department of Education is "aware of the situation, and it is under review" to see if the current and former Freehold Regional administrators misused academic titles, said Rich Vespucci, spokesman for the department.

    State law provides for a civil penalty of $1,000 for using academic credentials bearing one's name if the credentials were not granted by an authorized institution. Breyer State states on its Web site that it is not accredited by any agency authorized by the U.S. Department of Education.

    Carol Fox, president of the Marlboro Parent Teacher Student Organization, said Wasser should pay back the district for the tuition.

    "I want schools and teachers and administrations to be above-board," she said. "This is what we have to teach our children. We're supposed to be role models. Getting a degree from that organization is not being a role model, it's teaching how to cheat."

    According to Board of Education meeting minutes, Tanzini received a $2,500-a-year raise in November shortly before his December retirement for completing a doctoral degree, based on his contract.

    Evangelista was promoted from administrative supervisor for human resources to interim assistant superintendent in December, and from interim to permanent assistant superintendent in April. Wasser received a $2,500-a-year raise for the doctorate degree, based on the terms of his contract.

    Wasser received his doctorate in June 2006, Evangelista in June 2007.

    Wasser released a written statement in response to questions by the Asbury Park Press that said:

    "Engaging in a traditional program or completing research on-line is a personal preference. I chose to take a practical approach to my advanced degree because it afforded me the opportunity for meaningful study without taking valuable time away from what is most important to me: the daily responsibilities of this district and students."

    He added, "My two years of study provided me with valuable insights in dealing with at-risk students."

    Wasser wrote a 105-page dissertation entitled "The Impact of the Superintendent's Disciplinary Hearings on Identified At-Risk Students' Behaviors." The paper included 74 pages of content, five pages of bibliography citing 90 sources, and 23 pages of appendices.

    The dissertation studies 25 Freehold Regional High School district "at-risk" students, identified only with initials. Their problems included poor grades, bad attendance and misbehavior. Wasser's one-on-one method for dealing with these students was researched in his work.

    Wasser teaches a class on adolescent counseling at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, where he has taught for 25 years. A Rutgers spokesman said a doctorate is not required to teach the course.

    Tanzini said he had not known Breyer State lacked accreditation, but said he had checked out the school before he enrolled.

    "I had seen some of the information on their Web site and read some of the dissertations from their students," Tanzini said. "It seemed reputable. . . . I thought it was a good opportunity. The cost was reasonable."

    Tanzini said he wants to become an educational consultant now that he's retired...


  • Diploma mill crackdown overdue, Editorial, Montgomery, Alabama Montgomery Advertiser, July 16, 2008.


    A diploma ought to mean something, ought to represent some measure of academic attainment that a prospective employer or another educational institution can consider valid. Too often in Alabama, long a haven for "diploma mills," that isn't the case.

    That will be changing under the increased scrutiny planned by the state Department of Postsecondary Education and announced -- pointedly -- by Chancellor Bradley Byrne this week. The need for it is beyond question.

    Alabama's public institutions face regular accrediting examinations, but the state also has more than 250 private, for-profit institutions that offer degrees. Some of them are legitimate schools, accredited institutions that present legitimate higher education alternatives.

    Others, however, are nothing but diploma mills that provide meaningless degrees that employers and other educational institutions do not recognize -- and certainly should not recognize. They are colossal rip-offs for the students who given them money for tuition and fees, often going into debt to do so. They are an affront not only to the very concept of genuine education, but also to the society they brazenly expect to accept their shoddy offerings.

    Horror stories are all too common. Last month, the department declined to renew the license of Breyer State University in Birmingham. It's not a university at all, but a textbook example of a diploma mill. It awarded doctorates -- doctorates -- to people on the basis of life and work experiences, along with a financial contribution to the school. Not exactly a model of academic rigor.

    In May, the department revoked the license of Columbus College in Mobile. Its "operations" operated out of a post office box.

    As the Advertiser's Markeshia Ricks reported, licensing fees for private, for-profit colleges will be increased to an annual minimum of $2,500, with the funds used to beef up department staff for enforcement.

    Stricter reporting requirements will be instituted. The schools will have to provide audited financial statements and copies of tax returns. Operators must have clean records, with no convictions involving crimes of moral turpitude and no successful lawsuits against them for fraud or deceptive trade practices in the past 10 years.

    The department will take steps to close schools that offer poor-quality coursework. (In some cases, the coursework isn't even that good. It's non-existent, with actual academic work eliminated in favor of dubious "life experience" credits.)

    "We are going to adhere to state Board of Education policy, increase our manpower and strengthen our guidelines," Byrne said. "We are not going to allow any college to commit academic or economic fraud on our citizens."

    No such fraud should ever be countenanced. It should be noted that there is nothing inherently wrong with for-profit colleges. Some of them provide solid educational opportunities and willingly subject themselves to the same accrediting standards as public institutions. They're supportive of the department's crackdown on diploma mills. It's the bogus schools that have cause to worry now.

    This added scrutiny is many years overdue. A good case can be made that the licensing of for-profit colleges should be the responsibility of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, and legislation to that effect has been introduced in the last two regular sessions of the Legislature.

    It hasn't passed, however, so the responsibility continues to rest with the Department of Postsecondary Education. Given that reality, Byrne is right to pursue this course and to do so vigorously.


  • Taxpayers Foot Bill for Questionable Degrees, NewsChannel 5, Nashville, Tennessee, July 15, 2008.


    An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation first exposed some state employees and their questionable degrees, and tax payers paid for some of those degrees? Get this - tax payers have continued paying.

    NewsChannel 5's Chief Investigative Reporter Phil Williams noted a real education at a real school can cost a lot of money. It turns out a not-so-real education can cost just as much money - just ask the spokesperson for Nashville Electric Service.

    "He didn't realize it wasn't a legitimate institution," Teresa Corlew said about NES Vice President Eddie Andrews, whose resume boasts an impressive-sounding Masters of Business Administration.

    Andrews has an official-looking diploma from Kennedy-Western University.

    "He said the course work seemed difficult," Corlew told Williams. "He also said he wrote a 160-page thesis, so he assumed it was a legitimate institution."

    Four years ago, a congressional investigation showed how the unaccredited Kennedy-Western University was a highlighted example of what was dubbed a diploma mill.

    "The test was open-book, multiple-choice, a hundred questions," an investigator told the Senate committee.

    Committee members heard that students were expected to buy a few textbooks, but the tests could usually be aced by just flipping through the index. If students flunked they could retake the same tests until they passed.

    "Based on my observations during the time I worked at Kennedy-Western, I can tell you that there is no value to a Kennedy-Western education," a former employee testified.

    In Andrews' case, NES records show he delivered straight A's, and the power company paid the bills: about $15,000 in all for Andrews and two other NES employees...

    See also

    State Employees List Suspect Degrees, NewsChannel 5, Nashville, Tennessee, July 14, 2008.

    When you hire someone for a job, you want someone who's got all the right credentials, but an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that you've got people working for you whose degrees may not be all that they seem.

    NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams found people with questionable creddentials on the government's payroll.

    "She was a victim, perhaps, of the come-on from this particular company," State Commerce Commissioner Leslie Newman said about Linda Lichtenberger.

    Last month, Newman hired Lichtenberger to head the state's codes enforcement training program.

    The job description called for "graduation from an accredited college or university with a bachelor's degree" or an equivalent amount of experience.

    "She has almost three times the minimum required equivalent experience," Newman said.

    Still, Lichtenberger signed her state application saying she had attended Belford University, receiving a bachelor's in business.

    What the commissioner didn't know at the time was this: "It is a sham institution," Newman told Williams.

    Belford's slick web site offers affordable bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in just seven days. Get credit for what you've learned in life for only $449.

    The commissioner defended Lichtenberger. "I think again it was an innocent attempt on her part to roll up all of the hours of course work that she had taken."

    Innocent or not, when Lichtenberger (like all Belford graduated) ordered her degree she could also request transcripts, make up your own graduation date and even pick her grade point average. A perfect 4.0 costs an extra $75.

    Williams also went online and applied for the degree "vegetable psychology." When asked for his experience, Williams typed that he had "helped a lot of tomatoes grow." Within seconds he was approved for a bachelor's degree!

    "How could she not know this was a sham?" Williams asked Newman.

    "I can't answer that," Newman admitted.

    Rich Rhoda heads the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and he too looked into Belford and constructed his own opinion.

    "Do they think this is how it works? There may be one such person out there," Rhoda said. "It is something for nothing. It's fraud."

    Then, there's Frank Reed, the head softball coach for University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Williams confronted the coach in his office.

    "You just come in unannounced. I'm sitting here working," Reed said to Williams.

    "I've tried to reach you over and over, coach - you know that," Williams responded.

    "That doesn't really matter," Reed said.

    When Reed was hired seven years ago, the job called for at least a bachelor's - "master's preferred," and his application had both degrees from Western States University.

    "Are your degrees fake?" Williams asked.

    "No," the coach responded.

    In fact, Western States is a now-defunct company, offering "life experience" degrees for things like writing reports, volunteer work and even being a volunteer fireman.

    "It's not a reputable institution of higher education," Rhoda said about Western States.

    "Do you think parents have a right to know how you got your degrees?" Williams asked Reed.

    "They know, and the school knows," Reed insisted.

    In fact, a UTC spokesman said Reed "presented the credentials that we requested." Despite the coach's work with students, Chuck Cantrell said his suspect degrees really aren't a problem.

    "In terms of that position, he met the minimum requirements," Cantrell said.

    "And the minimum requirements were for a legitimate bachelor's or master's degree," Williams notes.

    "Well, it said, bachelor's degree," Cantrell answered. "There's no adjective there."

    Still, UTC isn't alone. NewsChannel 5's investigation discovered professors at several Board of Regents colleges who call themselves doctors have Ph.D. degrees from unknown universities.

    "Dr." William Kitchen, an assistant professor at Nashville State, claims a Ph.D. from Cambridge State University. That's an unaccredited operation that was forced out of several states.

    "Dr." Clark McKinney, an assistant professor of psychology from Southwest Tennessee Community College, lists a Ph.D. from Brighton University. That's another operation closed by court order.

    "Dr." Michael Wright, also from Southwest, lists not one, but two Ph.D. degrees from the Greenwich University. It also was forced to close.

    Still, the Tennessee Board of Regents said all three have legitimate masters' - the minimum requirements - so the board doesn't have a problem with their doctorate degrees.

    It's a stance that Rhoda has questioned.

    "One thing about academic institutions is that academic integrity is at the very core that's the coin of the realm. I mean you have to be who you say you are," Rhoda said.

    As to those trying to get ahead, consumer advocates said degrees from places like Belford usually don't open any doors.

    As for those NewsChannel 5 discovered, we can't tell say if any of those people intended to deceive anyone or if they really thought they were getting legitimate degrees. Right now, in every case, their bosses said their jobs were safe.


  • No more diploma mills: Chancellor Bradley Byrne announces new initiatives to shut down sham schools, better regulate other for-profits, Alabama Dept. of Postsecondary Education News Release, Montgomery, Alabama, July 14, 2008.


    MONTGOMERY – Alabama has a reputation as a good place to do business, but there's one industry that is no longer welcome: diploma mills.

    In a news conference Monday, Alabama Community College System Chancellor Bradley Byrne announced an aggressive new initiative to shut down fraudulent for-profit colleges and better regulate the legitimate ones.

    "Fraudulent institutions do not belong in this state – period," Byrne stated. "We are going to adhere to State Board of Education policy, increase our manpower, and strengthen our guidelines. We are not going to allow any college to commit academic or economic fraud on our citizens."

    Byrne emphasized that the new regulations, which will become effective October 1, are not meant to hinder legitimate operations. "For-profit institutions are an important part of the educational landscape throughout the United States," he said. "In shutting down the diploma mills, we help protect the reputations of the legitimate proprietary institutions."

    In addition to much more stringent guidelines (see attached bullet list), fees will be increased to help the department pay for additional staff to adequately provide oversight to for-profit institutions, Byrne said. The private colleges also will be required to ante up a significantly higher bond to ensure that students' investment in tuition is even better protected. The Alabama Department of Postsecondary Education (DPE) oversees the state's 27 public community and technical colleges and, since legislation enacted in 2004, also licenses for-profit colleges. Previously, the Department of Education handled that duty. During the past legislative session, Postsecondary sought to turn over private school licensure to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, which DPE officials contend is better equipped for the task, but the measure was defeated.

    "If Postsecondary is going to be responsible for private school licensure, then we're going to do it right," Byrne said. "Legitimate private school operators have told me they support our new initiatives. I'm putting the illegitimate ones on notice: We're going to run you out of our state."

    Currently there are 258 licensed private institutions operating in Alabama, and only three full-time staff members in DPE's Private School Licensure (PSL) Division. Despite being woefully understaffed, PSL has recently investigated and closed the books on 18 private institutions, through either rejection of applications or license revocation or non-renewal.

    "For many years, Alabama has been considered one of the Seven Sorry Sisters: states that had bad laws or ineffective enforcement. These states became havens for diploma mills and substandard degree providers," said Alan Contreras, administrator for the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization and outspoken critic of diploma mills. The other states, Contreras said, are Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

    "Those of us who work in education quality control are very pleased to see the excellent recent enforcement efforts by the state of Alabama," Contreras said. "This kind of consumer protection effort is crucial for not only your state's reputation, but for protecting the public against people with substandard credentials."

    Diploma mills

    While many of the institutions closed for legitimate reasons, some – notably Columbus University and Breyer State University – were operating apparent diploma mills and taking shameful advantage of hundreds of unsuspecting students.

    Columbus University was issued a license to operate in Alabama in November 2007. PSL staff investigating the institution found that it was first operating out of a condo in Daphne, and later moved its address to a post office box in Mobile. PSL staff revoked Columbus University's license in May after an intensive review of the institution uncovered a number of violations ranging from not requiring general education courses to producing degrees that are not valid or are not recognized by employers or accrediting agencies across the country.

    According to the Columbus University website, the school claims to offer 128 associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. This was to be accomplished, PSL investigators learned, with only three faculty members – none of whom were qualified to teach the majority of the courses offered. In fact, some of the faculty claimed degrees awarded to them by Columbus University.

    Breyer State University was issued a license to operate in the state in October 2004, and was non-renewed this June. One of the Jefferson County institution's many violations included conferring honorary doctorates on individuals based on life and work experience, a one-time application fee and a monetary contribution to the institution. In addition, the institution offers an unheard of self-design degree program which allows the creation of a curriculum based on mentoring.

    Breyer State, according to its website, offers 74 associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs. Breyer State claimed to have 120 faculty members holding bachelor's, graduate and post-graduate degrees, however, it was discovered that many of the faculty's degrees did not come from accredited institutions.

    Since losing its license to operate in Alabama, Breyer State moved to Idaho.

    Going forward

    "Next January and every January thereafter," Byrne said, "we are going to publish an annual report card that will allow the public to see at a glance not only how our public colleges are doing, but also know exactly what they're getting from a for-profit institution." K-12 schools in Alabama already provide this kind of information to the public. Byrne said the annual report card will be easily accessible to the public on the Alabama Community College System's website.

    "We want to make our educational institutions completely transparent and consumer-friendly," Byrne said. Among the details on the report card will be precise descriptions of course offerings, whether the institution is accredited by any recognized board or agency, and tuition and fees.

    Byrne noted that many for-profit institutions offer the same courses available at public community or technical colleges, but at greatly increased tuition rates. "All prospective students should be able to make clear choices and be fully apprised of the cost as they are planning for their future. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous for-profits withhold cost information until the student comes in and gets pressured into signing a contract for exorbitant tuition and fees."

    The Private School Licensure Division of the department also expects to implement an online application form and other technology solutions to facilitate transparency, consistency, better monitoring and to make the process more user-friendly.

    Public community colleges are committed to affordability and access, Byrne said, especially when state four-year institutions continue to increase tuition.

    "It's only fair that for-profit colleges are as transparent as public ones," Byrne said. "If a student compares costs and program quality and still opts for the for-profits, so be it. But we think this report card will open citizens' eyes to the quality education and comparatively modest cost of the quality education available through the Alabama Community College System."

    Victor K. Biebighauser, president of South University, Montgomery, supported the department's initiative, saying: "There is no constituency in the state more supportive of appropriate oversight and regulation to protect citizens from illegitimate diploma mills than the accredited school community." Biebighauser, also president of the Alabama Association of Private Colleges & Schools, an association of accredited licensed private postsecondary institutions in the state, added "The Alabama Private School License Law is a good statute, and we applaud the efforts by Chancellor Byrne to apply the provisions of the law in an appropriate and rigorous manner for the benefit of students, taxpayers, and institutions."


  • Disclose names of those who bought fake degrees, Editorial, Tacoma, Washington News-Tribune, July 14, 2008.


    Does it really matter whether doctors, nurses and engineers have legitimate degrees?

    Of course it does. And it's in the public's best interest to know when people holding responsible jobs bought their "degrees" from an online diploma mill instead of attending college, taking classes and passing exams.

    But even though the U.S. Department of Justice knows the identities of more than 10,000 people who bought fake degrees from a single Spokane-based diploma mill, it won't give out that information. The U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington, James A. McDevitt, says releasing the names of the people who bought phony degrees is contrary to Department of Justice policy.

    Then the policy is wrong and needs to be changed. The only party that benefits from the policy is the customer with a fake degree. The public and employers are losers.

    The owner of the mill – which made millions as part of an Internet scheme – was sentenced last week to three years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Several employees received lesser sentences.

    The mill sold fake degrees in nursing, medicine engineering, counseling and other fields from phony institutions such as St. Regis University and James Monroe University. It also sold counterfeit diplomas from legitimate universities, including Texas A&M, the University of Tennessee and George Washington University. It didn't matter if employers tried to check out the diplomas; the mill's owner had a separate operation to handle verification calls.

    It's easy to see how the public's safety is put at risk by allowing people with fake degrees to continue in such jobs as nurses, doctors and engineers. But there are also financial considerations. Employers often pay higher salaries, give promotions and provide more lucrative retirement benefits based on workers' educational levels. And many of the phony degrees went to people in public sector jobs, such as schoolteachers and firefighters – so taxpayers foot the bill for the fraud.

    At least one of the diploma mill's customers worked in the White House, and dozens of others worked for the Department of Defense. A fake degree even allowed an Army enlisted man to become an officer.

    Disclosing the names of those who bought fake degrees – and the resulting publicity – could serve an important deterrent effect. But failure to disclose the names allows the customers to continue defrauding their employers and makes the government an accessory to that fraud.

    Most seriously, it puts the public's health and safety at risk.


  • Diploma mill customers will remain secret, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, July 6, 2008. (A slightly more recent version is available here.)


    Operators of a Spokane diploma mill are heading to federal prison, while senior Justice Department officials say they are going to keep secret the names of the [9,612] buyers who used the bogus and counterfeit degrees to get jobs, promotions and enhanced retirements.

    James A. McDevitt, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington, reversed his earlier public promise to release the names, saying last week that a Justice Department policy prevents him from releasing them.

    The region's senior federal law enforcement official took that stand Wednesday after one of his staff prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs, said in court that the buyers' use of such bogus degrees in the health care, engineering and other professions "puts the public at risk."

    "I was hoping at some time we could release the list of names of these buyers," McDevitt said in an interview.

    "I'd love to release the list, but I've been convinced it would be contrary to (Department of Justice) policy," he said.

    That decision is expected to draw criticism from higher education and academic accreditation agencies, as well as open-government groups...

    Criticism also came from former FBI agent Allen Ezell, who spent most of his career investigating the sale of counterfeit and bogus college credentials. He is now a vice president in charge of corporate fraud for Wachovia Corp.

    By not releasing the names, the federal government is providing no deterrent to future purchasers and is aiding the perpetuation of fraud by the buyers, including those who bought counterfeit diplomas from real universities, the former FBI agent said.

    "I think it's totally wrong to not make these public," Ezell said when reached on vacation in South Carolina. "The whole purpose of a diploma mill is to sell false academic credentials to people who, we jolly-well know, are going to use them."

    By concealing their identities, he said the federal government "is becoming an accessory to fraud and is allowing these people to continue perpetrating a crime.."..


  • Diploma Mill ringleader gets maximum sentence , Melissa Luck, Spokane, Washington, KXLY-TV, July 2, 2008.


    Dixie Randock, the mastermind of a Spokane based phony diploma racket, has been sentenced to three years in prison.

    Three years was the maximum sentence that could have been imposed on Randock. She, along with her husband Steve and their daughter Heidi Lorhan pled guilty to to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud charges in March of this year

    All three were being sentenced in a Spokane court Wednesday. Lorhan received a one-year prison term while Steve's fate was being decided later Wednesday afternoon.

    Another employee, Roberta Markishtum, was also sentenced during the proceedings. She was the last member of the racket to plead guilty, admitting fault to a lesser charge late in March. She was sentenced to four months in jail.

    Prosecutors say the Randock family, along with associates, raked in more than $6 million while hawking phony diplomas for universities that don't exist. Operating out of their home in Mead and various businesses throughout the area, some 8200 bogus degrees were mailed from Spokane to customers around the world.

    The diploma mill operators most notably invented St. Regis University, showing pictures of Winston Churchill's childhood home as the alleged campus and bribing Liberian officials for accreditation.

    Numerous others have been found guilty for their involvement in the ring. Wednesday marks the end of the road for the racket's major players, however a few court proceedings will still be required to bring the matter to a close for some lesser involved people.


  • Diploma Mill Concerns Extend Beyond Fraud, Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times, June 29, 2008.


    The man said he was a retired military officer from Syria, which the American government deems a sponsor of terrorists. He wanted credentials as a chemical engineer, useful for getting a visa to work in the United States. Could James Monroe University help?

    For $1,277, it did. Within days, he received three undergraduate and advanced degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering, based on his "life experience," according to documents in federal court. Although the degrees looked authentic, Monroe had no faculty or courses; the "adviser" evaluating "life experience" was a high school dropout.

    Monroe was one of more than 120 fictitious universities operated by Dixie and Steven K. Randock Sr., a couple from Colbert, Wash., who sold diplomas for a price, according to a three-year federal investigation that ended in guilty pleas from the Randocks to mail and wire fraud. The inquiry into their diploma mill, which operated most often as St. Regis University, provides the most up-to-date portrait of how diploma factories can harness the rapidly evolving power of the Internet to expand their reach.

    The Randocks will be sentenced on Wednesday. Six former employees have also pleaded guilty to federal charges and await sentencing.

    Through their lawyers, the Randocks declined to comment; the court documents describe an operation that grew from a trickle to a flood from 1999 to 2005, when the authorities shut it down after its transaction with the Syrian officer, who was actually a Secret Service agent. The company became more inventive and bold, with revenues growing from $5,000 in 1999 to $1.65 million in 2005, and churning out more than 10,000 diplomas for customers in 131 countries.

    The Randocks took in more than $7 million, said Thomas Rice, a spokesman for the chief federal prosecutor in Spokane. They created 121 fictitious universities, and produced counterfeit degrees claiming to be from scores of real universities, the court papers say.

    "If they got their money, you got your diploma," Mr. Rice said...


  • Court upholds 'diploma mill' law, Joan Barron, Casper, Wyoming, Star-Tribune, June 25, 2008.


    CHEYENNE -- A law passed by the Legislature in 2006 to stiffen the requirements for private post-secondary educational institutions is constitutional, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled today.

    The uninamous opinion also upheld rules adopted by the Wyoming Department of Education to enforce the law.

    The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by Newport International University against the Wyoming Department of Education and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jim McBride.

    The 2006 law, designed to discourage so-called "diploma mills," requires private, post-secondary, degree-granting institutions to become accredited within five years, to be licensed by the department and meet the department's minimum standards.

    Newport International filed suit when the department rejected its renewal application.


         Academic reputation is restored, Star-Tribune Editorial Board, Casper, Wyoming Star-Tribune, July 4, 2008.


    In the not-too-distant past, a degree from a private school in Wyoming was greeted with deserved skepticism. The state was the diploma mill capital of the West.

    But a new state law passed in 2006, coupled with the Wyoming Supreme Court's recent ruling upholding its constitutionality, has rid the state of 20 post-secondary, degree-granting "institutions" operating in Wyoming.

    Before the new law went into effect, these unaccredited schools could operate if they obtained licenses from the Wyoming Department of Education, posted bonds and paid an annual fee.

    Now, they are required to become accredited within five years, licensed by the department, and meet the department's minimum standards.

    The superintendent of public instruction, Jim McBride, worked with the Legislature to carefully craft the new law so there were no loopholes. The result, McBride said, has increased Wyoming's academic reputation nationwide.

    You bet it has. No longer can anyone rent a post office box or a storefront, meet the state's minimal requirements and start selling dubious degrees. The private schools operating in Wyoming have all met the new requirements and are recognized as legitimate operations.

    It made no sense for Wyoming to invest so much money in K-12 and post-secondary education, only to serve as a haven for diploma mills. Fortunately, our officials recognized the problem and took action to solve it. Good job.


  • Ministry of Advanced Education, British Columbia, Canada closes and/or sanctions institutions
    • Vancouver University Worldwide


      On May 1, 2007 the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted a permanent injunction to the Minister of Advanced Education preventing Vancouver University Worldwide (Raymond Rodgers, Vancouver University Colleges Society, Geo Vancouver University Colleges Corporation), from contravening the Degree Authorization Act of British Columbia.

      Under the terms of this injunction, Vancouver University Worldwide is restrained from granting or conferring a degree or from selling or offering for sale or advertising for sale, a diploma, certificate, document or other material that implies the granting or conferring of a degree in British Columbia.


    • Rutherford University

      ...seems to have evaporated.


    • Lansbridge University


      ...On May 1, 2007, the term of consent ended and Lansbridge University no longer has authority to operate in British Columbia.


    • Upper Iowa University


      ...The board found that Upper Iowa University did not meet the criteria established and published by the minister and recommended to the minister that consent not be granted.

      The minister reviewed the board's recommendation and determined that consent under the Degree Authorization Act could not be granted to Upper Iowa University.

      On April 11, 2007, the temporary exemption under the Degree Authorization Act ended, and Upper Iowa University has closed its Vancouver operations.



  • Mississippi may tighten law that cracks down on diploma mills, Jerry Mitchell, Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger, May 31, 2008.


    A founder of American World University says she pulled her controversial college out of Mississippi because of a new law aimed at unaccredited institutions like hers.

    "The regulations became too laborious and too much," said Maxine Asher, who started American World University two decades ago. "We decided it wasn't the place for us."

    In 2006, Mississippi lawmakers empowered the state Commission on College Accreditation to shut down unapproved colleges and reputed diploma mills. Menia Dykes, executive secretary for the commission, said the law may need to be tweaked to "make it tighter."

    A historical lack of oversight has made Mississippi a haven for such businesses.

    "We have had some of the most lax higher education regulations in the country," said Tom Head of Jackson, who is co-author of Best Education Degrees and other books on distance learning.

    For years, virtually anyone who wanted to start a college could, often setting up shop in Mississippi by way of office space or post office boxes. "Louisiana and surrounding states were tightening their regulations so they would just move across the line," Dykes said.

    In 2005, university presidents expressed alarm at this influx of unlicensed schools, saying they perpetuated negative perceptions about Mississippi.

    In response, lawmakers passed a law to crack down on these schools, giving the commission the power to ask courts to order these institutions to stop offering unapproved post-secondary academic degrees.

    Although tough talk has not translated into any litigation, the 2006 law is having some effect.

    After being shown the door in three other states, American World University operated out of Pascagoula before leaving.

    In 2005, American World University offered prospective students a special on "all degrees" for $1,000, including a "free graduation gown."

    But Asher denied accusations her institution is a diploma mill, saying students seeking a bachelor's degree must complete 130 hours of work.

    She said she has plenty of enemies "who would love to get rid of me. They would love to get rid of me because look at the schools that are charging $20,000."

    These days, a degree at American World University costs $1,200. "I wish some day I could go on national television and tell it like it is," Asher said. "I have four doctorates, and they still make mincemeat out of me."

    Author John Bear, a nationally known expert on diploma mills, said the kind of institution American World University is can be illustrated by the fact Asher lost a $125,000 judgment in Hawaii for failing to state her university wasn't properly accredited.

    When Asher was unable to get American World University accredited years ago, she started her own accrediting service, the World Association of Universities and Colleges, which the U.S. Department of Education has never recognized.

    Accreditation is overrated in the United States, she said. "The University of Oxford isn't accredited. It's ridiculous."

    She said everybody "wants to start a school, and it's not that easy. We do it right, but we're still maligned."

    Her association has accredited four of the 11 unapproved institutions listed as operating in Mississippi in 2007.

    One of them, Cambridge State University, was closed down in Louisiana in 1998. A year later, Hawaii ordered Cambridge to cease claiming it was accredited. Cambridge then moved to Mississippi.

    After being declared a diploma mill by Oregon officials, Madison University set up shop in Mississippi. So did Columbus University.

    Dykes pointed out just because an institution is unapproved by the state doesn't mean it's illegitimate. For instance, The University of Phoenix, a well-known online college, is now seeking approval from state officials to operate.

    A diploma mill no longer operating in Mississippi is the American University of Hawaii.

    In Hawaii in 2005, a judge ordered the closing of the university in that state after officials there complained the institution was illegally offering degrees in law and medicine.

    The judge found the university's founder, Hassan Safavi, in contempt for failing to pay $500,000 in civil penalties and for failing to notify students and graduates that he would fully reimburse their tuition.

    Rather than shutting down the university, Safavi simply moved the university to Mississippi, where it operated again before he shut it down, this time on his own.

    Head suggested Mississippi follow the lead of Hawaii.

    "They were the diploma mill capital 20 or 30 years ago," he said. "They changed their laws and cracked down hard. Now there are no degree mills in Hawaii."


  • Nigeria: 15 Illegal Varsities Operate-NUC, Stella Eze, Nigeria, Leadership Nigeria, May 6, 2008.


    National Universities Commission (NUC) has alerted the public on the operations of 15 illegal universities located in different states of the federation.

    The commission, in a statement contained in its Monday bulletin, dissociated itself from the aforementioned institutions, warning that their activities have been reported to the police for further action.

    It also warned Nigerians against patronising these illegal universities, saying certificates obtained from them would not be recognized for employment purposes.

    Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (ADB) has come up with a new strategy aimed at reforming and transforming higher education systems in the African sub-region in readiness for global challenges.

    At the 746th regular session of the board of directors of the bank, the members approved the initiative, which would also help in refining and providing greater focus in the implementation of the bank's policy on education sector.

    According to the bulletin, board had decided that if Africa must be repositioned to increase its competitiveness, especially in the field of science and technology in education, all efforts must be geared towards "energizing and unlocking the minds for brighter economic prospects."

    It said, "This is a landmark decision of the bank to focus on skills in science and technology to sustain economic growth and increase the competitiveness of African economies. As well, the state of deterioration of the infrastructure demands a vigorous and concerted effort to rehabilitate the institutions.

    "Similarly, there is need to revisit the concept of centres of excellence and link the entire tertiary education with the productive sectors of the economies.

    "The bank will pay particular attention to increasing access of women in science, technology and innovation."

    The Illegal Universities


    • National University of Nigeria, Keffi, (Nassarawa)
    • Houdegbe North American University, Mushin (Lagos)
    • North Central University, Oturpko (Benue)
    • Christians of Charity American University of Science and Technology, Onitsha (Anambra)
    • Leadway University, Ugheli (Delta)
    • Saint Clements University, Ado Ekiti (Ekiti)
    • Christ Alive Christian Seminary and University, Enugu (Enugu).
    • Atlantic Intercontinental University, Okija, (Anambra)
    • Metro University, Dutse (Abuja)
    • Southend University, Ngwuro Egeru (Rivers) University of Industry, Yaba (Lagos)
    • University of Applied Science and Management Port Novo, Republic of Benin
    • Reverend D.O. Ockiya College of Technology and Management Sciences, Emeyal, (Bayelsa)
    • St. Paul University College, Awka (Anambra)
    • Blacksmith University, Awka, (Anambra).


  • Jackson Academy head: Doctorate came from diploma mill, Jerry Mitchell, Jackson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger, May 14, 2008.


    Jackson Academy's headmaster, known to some as "Dr. Pat," earned his doctoral degree from a fraudulent university.

    Pat Taylor acknowledges it - and so does his boss.

    Taylor received a doctorate in secondary education from LaSalle University in Mandeville, La., in 1996 - the same year FBI agents raided the institution.

    Its founder, James Kirk, pleaded guilty to fraud and tax evasion, admitting he used LaSalle and his church to swindle LaSalle students out of $36.5 million, taking $1.5 million of that cash to buy himself a white-columned mansion. He also admitted setting up his World Christian Church as a bogus front to avoid paying income taxes.

    Author John Bear, a nationally renowned expert on diploma mills, said about a dozen states have passed laws that make it a crime to claim a degree from LaSalle or similar bogus institutions in resumes. "It's nothing you would want to use in any public way," he said.

    Mississippi, however, has no such law, Bear said...

    Peter Jernberg, president and CEO of Jackson Academy, defended the educator, saying he was well aware throughout the search process that Taylor had earned his doctoral degree from a diploma mill. "That wasn't even an issue," he said.

    A doctoral degree was not required for the position, but a master's in education and significant administrative experience were, he said. "The committee spent the majority of its time exploring the impeccable record of service and accomplishments Pat Taylor had at St. Paul's Episcopal School (in Mobile), where he served for 34 years. Every reference the committee checked gave their highest recommendation of Pat Taylor."

    Taylor has never misrepresented anything about his background, Jernberg said. "The headmaster, board and parents of St. Paul's Episcopal School were more aware than us of the circumstances of Pat's doctorate, and they had no issues with it for the 11 years he continued to serve there after earning it," Jernberg said.

    JA parents reached Tuesday weren't bothered by the revelation or wouldn't comment. Byron Edgecombe, vice president of the JA Association, said the fact that Taylor earned his degree from a diploma mill "doesn't concern me at all. He's done a very good job when he's been here."

    Each year, JA parents pay up to $9,900 a year in tuition.

    Taylor said he didn't realize LaSalle was a diploma mill until after he graduated.

    Since his release from prison, Kirk has started several other academic institutions, some of them in Mississippi, Bear said.

    Taylor said he did, however, know LaSalle wasn't accredited.

    Asked why he would get a degree from an institution that wasn't accredited, he replied he was more interested in the help the institution offered...

    He said he chose LaSalle because someone on the staff at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital had recommended the institution. (There is a legitimate LaSalle University in Philadelphia, Pa.)

    Taylor said he could not recall the name of the professor under whom he did his doctoral dissertation, which included research on the best college options for students with learning disabilities.

    He said he spent two to three years working on his research, which included a survey of college admission offices. "It was significant survey work," he said...

    Rutledge said St. Paul's paid for Taylor's expenses at LaSalle, including paying a typist to type his dissertation...

    As for Taylor continuing to list his doctoral degree on his resume, "I feel he earned it. I would not question that."


  • New Law Protects Virginia from Diploma Mills, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Richmond, Virginia, April 24, 2008.


    "Virginia's system of higher education is one of the most highly regarded in the country, and this bill is an important part of maintaining that integrity." That was Governor Tim Kaine's response to the passage of House Bill 766 during the reconvene session yesterday at the General Assembly.

    As of July 1 when the law takes effect, anyone who issues, manufactures, or knowingly uses fraudulent academic credentials can be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500. Violations of the law should be reported to the Commonwealth's Attorney offices in the location where they occur.

    The legislation was drafted after months of hard work by a consortium of stakeholders, including The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia Career College Association (VCCA), Longwood University, the Virginia Community College System, and Virginia Commonwealth University.

    The bill was sponsored by Delegate Robert Tata, chairman of the House Education Committee and long-time advocate for higher education in Virginia. "When fraudulent credentials go unchecked, it diminishes the credentials offered by legitimate institutions," said Delegate Tata.

    The State Council reports that diploma mills have not yet become a problem in Virginia. However, the potential for serious harm should diploma mills begin to operate in the Commonwealth prompted this proactive legislation.

    "As more states pass legislation prohibiting diploma mills, Virginia becomes more vulnerable," said Daniel J. LaVista, SCHEV's Executive Director. "That is why it was important to act quickly. I applaud Delegate Tata and the General Assembly for taking this important step to protect higher education in Virginia."

    The manufacture and use of fraudulent credentials are cause for concern in a number of areas. First, there are the individuals who knowingly use fraudulent credentials to get jobs. In the case of health professions this practice can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Secondly, there are those who spend hard-earned money in good faith for credentials that turn out to be worthless. Third, employers are victimized when they spend money for what they think is legitimate training and get no value added to their workplace.

    Virginia joins the following states in passing legislation against diploma mills: Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.

    SCHEV is the Commonwealth's coordinating body for Virginia's system of higher education. The agency provides policy guidance and budget recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly, and is a resource for information on Virginia colleges and universities on higher education issues. For more information about the agency or higher education issues in Virginia, visit

    For more information, contact Kirsten Nelson, Director of Government Relations and Communications, at [email protected] or (804)225-2627.


  • CCHE allows controversial institution to open doors in Colorado, Marianne Goodland, Boulder, Colorado, Silver & Gold Record, April 17, 2008.


    A bill making its way through the House this month may put in place more oversight of private, for-profit higher education institutions in Colorado. But it will not give the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) oversight of an institution whose predecessor was closed down in Hawaii and was referred to as a "degree mill."

    Last week, the CCHE authorized the American University for Humanities (AUfH) to offer degrees in Colorado. AUfH plans to begin enrolling students this fall and will offer undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, business administration, information technology, political science, psychology, "forensic psychology and criminal justice" and "psychology in business," according to AUfH documents.

    The approval came after a tense hearing during a CCHE meeting last Friday in which AUfH's public relations director, Matt Wartell, accused the CCHE of blindsiding him with information he didn't have about AUfH's past.

    AUfH was formerly known as the American University of Hawaii (AUHawaii), according to court documents and news reports. According to documents obtained through an open records request to the CCHE, the history of AUHawaii includes a still-unpaid half-million-dollar fine in Hawaii, which was assessed to the man who is listed as AUfH Colorado Project Coordinator and as the institution's registered agent with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office. Concerns have been raised about the institution's accrediting body, the American Academy of Liberal Education (AALE), which only recently came off suspension from the U.S. Department of Education for failing to comply with DOE standards, according to the documents.

    AUHawaii was started in 1999, offering law and medical degrees for sale, according to a lawsuit filed against the corporation by the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection. Jeffrey Brunton, attorney for the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection, told S&GR this week that AUHawaii operated out of a one-room office in Wailuku and that the "Hawaii campus" simply did not exist. AUHawaii was never accredited by any nationally authorized accrediting agency, but a 2003 version of its Web site stated that as a global institution, it only needs authority from the state in which it is located, and does not need to be accredited by a federal agency such as the U.S. Department of Education. AUHawaii had other campuses in the Republic of Georgia, Lebanon and Singapore. All of those campuses have been accredited by AALE, but that accreditation does not transfer or apply to an American-based university, according to CCHE staff and AALE. In those locations the institution is now known as the American University for Humanities.

    AUHawaii was sued by the state's Office of Consumer Protection in 2004. Among the claims made in the suit was that AUHawaii offered to sell and sold postsecondary degrees, including medical and law degrees, despite not being accredited by the agencies responsible for those areas. Its failure to be accredited by any agency was a violation of Hawaii state law, according to the lawsuit. The suit named AUHawaii as a defendant as well as its founder, Hassan H. Safavi, also known as Henry Safavi, who was included because, according to the lawsuit, he "willfully participated in and benefited from" the illegal activities of AUHawaii.

    After months of delay and a trial, in 2006, a judge for the Second Judicial Circuit of Hawaii found in favor of the state, ordering the defendants to pay a $500,000 fine and to make restitution to every student who had paid for a degree from AUHawaii. Safavi has not paid a single dime of that judgment, Brunton said this week. The judgment is in effect for 10 years, Brunton said, and the state of Hawaii can get a 10-year extension once the first 10-year period expires. In addition, the judge ordered the defendants to remove the AUHawaii name on Web sites that had been set up for AUHawaii campuses in Delaware and Mississippi. Failure to do so would have resulted in Safavi being incarcerated, Brunton said.

    Safavi responds

    Safavi told S&GR that AUHawaii was never a campus. "Our headquarters were in Hawaii; we never offered degrees in Hawaii -- we did not have a campus, students or faculty," he said. AUHawaii was just the headquarters of a global university, he said, adding that AUHawaii was invited to come to Hawaii by the state and was recognized by the Hawaii House and Senate as "the most innovative institution of higher education in the world." Safavi also said the president of the Hawaii Senate was a member of AUHawaii's board of directors.

    Safavi said the lawsuit arose when AUHawaii was on the verge of being accredited by AALE. Safavi said he himself had promoted legislation to shut down Hawaii diploma mills and that Hawaii is the only state in the country that has "institutionalized diploma mills." He said it was strange that the state came after his institution when he was actively trying to shut down diploma mills. "I don't know what went wrong or who was the interested party [attempting] to get rid of us in Hawaii," he said.

    Safavi acknowledged that there is still a $500,000 fine pending against him in Hawaii, but he also pointed out that during the course of the lawsuit, two judges suggested mediation, which he said was refused by Brunton. Safavi said one judge ruled in favor of AUHawaii. He added that a second judge suggested mediation "because there was no case" but then changed his mind and issued the final ruling against AUHawaii. With regard to the claim that AUHawaii was offering medical and law degrees, Safavi noted that AUHawaii had had an articulation agreement for the medical degrees with the Yerevian State Medical University of Armenia, although he added that the medical program never came to fruition due to regulations about foreign students in Armenia. The 2003 AUHawaii Web site says the institution offered nonaccredited juris doctorates in law and does not note an affiliated institution; Safavi said that was because they never found one to offer that degree program.

    Safavi said AUfH institutions operate with more than 3,000 faculty and 6,000 students in 31 countries, and are recognized as world leaders in many academic areas.

    'Bad publicity'

    In a December 2007 letter to the CCHE, Michael Harari, vice president of AUfH, said AUHawaii never knowingly breached the laws of Hawaii "despite the incessant bad publicity that Hawaii Office of Consumer Affairs has taken upon itself to propagate at the taxpayers' expense." The legal action against AUHawaii, Harari said, "has been recognized by all to be a political act." Harari wrote that the lawsuit was founded on depositions from "bogus witnesses [and] arranged court dates, and [the state] obtained a faulty judgment all in the span of one month. We came to realize that we were no match with those who hold the political and financial clout in Hawaii ... and we decided to abide and leave."

    But according to court documents, the judgment included a "cease-and-desist" order and the fines and restitution ordered by the court were the result of AUHawaii failing to obey that order.

    As a global institution and for its campuses in the Republic of Georgia, Singapore and Lebanon, AUfH sought and received accreditation from AALE. But AALE has had its own problems. Last December, AALE was granted authority to accept applications for membership and accreditation, after serving a six-month suspension imposed by the U.S. Department of Education. According to DOE documents, the suspension was recommended in December 2006 by the DOE's National Advisory Committee for Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), based on concerns that AALE had failed to comply with DOE standards. The suspension went into effect in July 2007. In a March 2007 letter to AALE, Spellings noted she was "concerned that since 2001 AALE has been cited consistently for either not having clear expectations or standards with respect to measuring student outcomes, or not collecting and reviewing data on how institutions it accredits measures student outcomes."

    Choosing Colorado

    AUfH documents say the move to Colorado was suggested by the AALE, "since they feel that [Colorado] is an education-friendly state" and "we have been assured that due permits and licenses will be granted for our operation with least formality."

    In Colorado, a private, for-profit entity can open a college or university if it complies with state statutes and CCHE regulations. According to the CCHE, those include documentation that the institution is familiar with accreditation; a mission statement; a listing of the institution's governing board, executive officers and faculty members; degree and academic program information; admissions and academic policies; financial resources; and proof of accreditation status.

    During the April 11 meeting, CCHE Chief Academic Officer Julie Carnahan noted that AUfH had completed all CCHE requirements for approval. She noted that in some states, a cease-and-desist order would be sufficient reason to deny approval to an institution attempting to open its doors there, but that is not the case in Colorado. Carnahan said that while the staff was recommending approval for AUfH, CCHE Executive Director David Skaggs had directed them to also inform the commissioners about AUfH's history.

    Commissioners initially attempted to delay the vote on approval, seeking more time to find out about AUfH. But Carnahan told them that nothing the staff would find out about AUfH's history would change the staff recommendation, given that AUfH had complied with all CCHE requirements.

    Wartell, who said at the meeting that he knew nothing about the history of AUfH, said the problem was probably just a "paperwork issue," and told the commissioners that a delay in the vote might cause AUfH to "give up and move to Los Angeles." And he pointed out that Safavi is no longer president of AUfH.

    However, Safavi is listed as "dean of social and behavioral sciences" for AUfH-Colorado, as "Colorado Project Coordinator" in a March 2008 AUfH document, and as the agent for AUfH-Colorado in the articles of incorporation filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

    After failing to delay the vote during the meeting, the CCHE voted 5-2 to approve AUfH for operations in Colorado. But Commissioner Larry Beckner echoed the concerns of several commissioners when he said he was uncomfortable with the way the statute reads, because "it does not allow us to do what we need to do."

    The situation also alarmed members of the CCHE's advisory board, most notably the legislators, who acted quickly to recommend changes to legislation that would toughen up Colorado's oversight of private, for-profit institutions. But Skaggs told S&GR this week that those changes would not be retroactive and would not deal with the AUfH situation.

    Legislators react

    On Monday, the House Education Committee amended SB 167, a bill that initially sought modest changes to CCHE oversight of private, for-profit institutions.

    Under the original version of SB 167, a private college or university that wants to do business in Colorado would have to be accredited by a regional accreditation association or agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the CCHE could order the Department of Higher Education to review the institution to determine whether to revoke its authorization or place it on probationary status. However, according to the bill, that revocation could only occur if the institution had lost its accreditation or been placed on probationary status by its accrediting agency.

    The bill would also add to state law a section on procedures related to student complaints, stating that the department could investigate claims of deceptive trade practices, but not complaints based on academic or religious freedom or that would question curriculum content.

    In response to the AUfH situation, on Monday legislators amended the bill to say CCHE could not approve an application from an institution that had been suspended in the previous two years, prohibited from doing business in another state or had the same ownership or principal officers as an institution that had been prohibited from doing business in another state.

    SB 167 now goes to the House Appropriations Committee; its House sponsor, Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) said he expects a hearing to take place next week.


  • Kenya: Queries Over Quality of Degrees Awarded By Spanish College, Mwaura Kimani, Nairobi, Kenya Business Daily, April 13, 2008.


    For two years, the locally unaccredited Bircham International University has been illegally operating in Kenya, wooing unsuspecting students to its distance learning classes.

    Questions are now being raised over degrees courses offered by the Spanish institution, in what appears to be yet another angle to an ensuing education scam.

    Investigations by Business Daily show that the university charges between Sh250,000 and Sh400,000 in fees for undergraduate, masters and doctorate courses.

    This is marginally below what most local accredited universities charge for the same type of degrees.

    Most of the bogus colleges are found in congested precincts, often sandwiched between shops and office blocks. They charge lower fees than most universities and are staffed by teachers who lack credentials.

    Locally, some institutions are claiming to offer degrees on behalf of Bircham International university. Among them is Maranatha Professional College of Counselling based in Nairobi.

    The secretary for Commission for Higher Education (CHE), Prof Everett Standa, says the institution is operating in the country illegally and degree certificates from BIU will not be recognised by the Commission.

    Our request to the Spanish Embassy in Kenya on the registration status of BIU in Spain was unanswered by the time of going to press.

    On several occasions, BIU has unsuccessfully sought collaboration with some credible local colleges. One such institution is the Kenya Institute of Professional Counselling which is validated by CHE and is already in collaboration with the Egerton University.

    It is understood that most of the initial students of BIU had been recruited from KIPC, but later withdrew from the it after word went around that the institution was not locally recognised.

    A former student, who enrolled in 2004 and has graduated, told Business Daily that BIU has hired agents to source local students. The agent gets a commission of $1,000 (Sh62,000) for every student who enrols and pays up the whole fees amount.

    According to Prof Standa, BIU is not listed in the Unesco's International Handbook of Universities - a list of all registered universities in the World - which the commission uses to verify information on any foreign university.

    BIU, which says it has already enrolled 110 students, operates from the 17th floor of Posta Sacco Plaza along University Way. However, the institution's co-ordinator for the East Africa region, Timothy Kiambi, sees no need in seeking accreditation for BIU to operate in the country.

    "Ours is a Distance Learning Programme, which is not even regulated in Kenya," he told Business Daily. "We use the local colleges to support our students especially in research, so it is not really something that requires accreditation"

    "You don't go to a foreign land and begin operations there without informing the authorities," said Prof Standa, adding that several bogus universities appear each year and students should be wary.

    Locally, BIU offers diploma, degrees, masters and doctorates in Forensic Psychology and Criminology, Security Management, psychology and counselling among others.

    "Officially validated degrees are required for certain government posts and professional licenses. BIU distance learning degrees can not be used for these purposes," the institution says in its website. A number of factors are coming together to fuel this trend of phony schools.

    For education analysts; the rapid globalisation of education is likely to attract a more diverse range of private providers--both local and foreign -- and there could be a greater risk of confusion.

    More foreign universities are set to open overseas campuses - and CHE warns that there will be "more of these shadowy organisations wanting to make quick cash."

    Although the awarding of qualifications in Kenyan universities is tightly regulated, the rules do not apply for businesses calling themselves "colleges" or "institutes."

    Degrees from such universities are mere pieces of paper with no academic value.


  • As Diploma-Fraud Bill Advances, Operators Admit to Online Scam, Andrew Trotter, Education Week, Bethesda, Maryland, April 4, 2008.


    Three Washington state residents have admitted to selling thousands of bogus academic degrees through scores of phony online universities, while raking in millions of dollars from customers.

    In plea agreements filed late last month in the U.S. District Court in Spokane, Dixie E. Randock, her husband Steven K. Randock Sr., and her daughter Heidi K. Lorhan admitted to having used Web sites and sold degrees in fields that included education, medicine, and nuclear engineering to customers from the United States and other countries from 1999 to 2005. The three pleaded guilty to federal criminal fraud charges.

    In 2003, several Georgia teachers and administrators used degrees purchased from one of the bogus online schools, "St. Regis University," to qualify for state pay raises.

    State officials accepted the credentials from the phony university, which was purportedly in Liberia, because a Florida-based credential-evaluation firm vouched for their validity. ("Educators' Degrees Earned On Internet Raise Fraud Issues," May 5, 2004.)

    Last fall, several other participants in the scheme also pleaded guilty to fraud and other criminal charges. They include charges related to bribery of officials from the government of Liberia, which for a time listed St. Regis University and other entities created by the group as accredited institutions. One other alleged participant reportedly is in plea negotiations with prosecutors.

    Risk and Awareness

    Alarms about the dangers of global trafficking in bogus academic credentials have been raised by members of the U.S. academic community, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Government Accountability Office, and members of the U.S. Congress.

    Only nine states broadly outlaw or restrict the use of unaccredited academic credentials in applying for a raise or a job; an additional two states have more-narrow protections against the use of bogus degrees, according to Alan L. Contreras, the administrator of Oregon's office of degree authorization.

    U.S. Senate hearings in 2004 focused on federal employees who bought credentials from "diploma mills"—sometimes with public money—to win raises and promotions in government jobs.

    Federal legislation reining in online diploma mills is part of a major higher education reauthorization bill that the House of Representatives passed earlier this year. The bill is currently being considered by a House-Senate conference committee, along with a version passed by the Senate that does not address diploma mills.

    The bill, H.R. 4137, for the first time provides a legal definition of a diploma mill, while instructing the U.S. secretary of education to establish lists of legitimate accrediting agencies, colleges and universities, and equivalent overseas institutions. The bill would establish a "diploma mill task force" to develop guidelines to distinguish between legitimate and bogus degree-granting institutions and legislation to address fraudulent degrees. The bill also directs the Federal Trade Commission to designate the offering or issuing of a bogus degree as "an unfair and deceptive act or practice."

    Bill a 'Good Start'

    George Gollin, a physics professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has crusaded against online diploma mills for years, says the House legislation, which was originally developed by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., is "a really good start."

    He estimates that the Randocks' operation, at its height, sold between 2,000 and 3,000 degrees per year. According to the plea agreement, "the cost of a high school diploma was $350-$400, and an undergraduate or graduate 'degree' was $500-$1,200."

    Of the online diploma mills in the early 2000s, Mr. Gollin said, theirs was the most "sophisticated in presentation" on the Web, though "it wasn't the biggest in terms of marketing."

    Still, said Mr. Gollin, who currently is a member of the board of directors of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, based in Washington, "I think very roughly, U.S.-based diploma-mill operators are selling between 100,000 and 200,000 degrees yearly."

    In K-12 education, bogus credentials seem to be most prevalent among nonclassroom school employees who are seeking degrees to obtain promotions or higher pay grades, rather than teachers, Mr. Gollin said.

    Online diploma mills "are easy to create, easy to move," said Judith S. Eaton, the executive director of the Council of Higher Education Accreditation, which oversees domestic accreditation of colleges and universities. Despite a dearth of reliable data on the extent of the problem, Ms. Eaton called it "a cause for concern worldwide—both in the import and export of degrees."

    In fields such as engineering or medicine, she noted, allowing people to gain positions of responsibility with bogus degrees could have life-threatening consequences.


  • Diploma mill ringleader pleads guilty, Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, March 27, 2008.


    Dixie Ellen Randock, a high-school dropout who masterminded a Spokane-based Internet scheme to sell bogus high school and university degrees around the world, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

    The 58-year-old Colbert woman, who sold real estate before launching her massive diploma mill operation in the late 1990s, faces three years in prison when she is sentenced July 2 in U.S. District Court.

    She started her string of online universities "because she saw it as a good way to make money," according to the plea agreement she signed.

    Her husband, Steven K. Randock Sr., 67, and daughter, Heidi Kae Lorhan, 39, also pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Under terms of separate plea agreements, Steven Randock faces three years in prison and Lorhan faces 12 to 18 months.

    As part of plea bargains, the U.S. attorney's office agreed to seek dismissal of money-laundering charges against the Randocks, which carried longer potential prison terms. They agreed to forfeit more than $535,000 in cash seized in 2005 by a special task force, as well as their late-model Jaguar.

    The fourth remaining defendant, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, was negotiating a similar plea agreement with the U.S. attorney's office and may enter a guilty plea today, Judge Lonny Suko was told at Wednesday's hearing.

    The case is believed to be the first successful prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice of diploma-mill operators, using wire and mail fraud statutes.

    "In terms of complexity and numbers of documents, I'd say it ranks up there, if not the biggest, then one of the biggest (cases) that's come across my desk," said Jim McDevitt, who has been the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington for the past seven years.

    New court documents disclose that the conspirators used an airline magazine advertisement to sell at least one "doctor of medicine" degree from their fictional Saint Regis University to a buyer in North Carolina who paid the Randocks $1,531.

    A man from Wisconsin bought a nuclear science degree from Robertstown University, another one of the 125 bogus online schools created by the Randocks, the documents say.

    There are at least 8,200 purchasers whose names haven't been released by the federal government. McDevitt said Wednesday he's committed to the eventual release of the names of buyers who used their degrees in many instances to get jobs and promotions or, in the case of foreign nationals, to enhance their chances of immigrating to the United States.

    At least 300 of the buyers worked for the federal government, including in positions in the Justice Department, the State Department, various military branches and even the White House, it has been disclosed in previous court hearings.

    The only publicly announced criminal prosecution of a purchaser involves a former deputy U.S. marshal supervisor who worked in Spokane and bought a degree from Saint Regis. He pleaded guilty to lying on a promotion application and awaits sentencing.

    The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs, who headed the multiagency task force dubbed "Operation Gold Seal" that has investigated the diploma mill operation for more than three years. Because of pending court hearings, Jacobs said he couldn't comment.

    The federal task force was created in early 2005, following a November 2003 news story in The Spokesman-Review about the diploma-mill operation being run by the Randocks out of an office building in Mead and a house in Hillyard.

    After that notoriety, the Randocks moved their operation to a rented basement office in a Post Falls office building, registering their businesses with the state of Idaho as "When Pigs Fly Inc." and "Kaching, Kaching Inc."

    Federal interest in the operation ramped up when investigators discovered purchasers included people living in the Middle East they feared could be terrorists who could legally gain entry into the United States with their bogus college degrees.

    Four other defendants — Blake Alan Carlson, Richard John Novak, Kenneth Wade Pearson and Amy Leann Hensley — previously pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy and agreed to be prosecution witnesses against the Randocks. Pearson, who worked as webmaster for the Randocks, also pleaded guilty to receipt of 10,000 child pornography images. They all await sentencing.

    In her plea agreement, Dixie Randock confessed to making up names of prep schools and universities, creating online Web sites for them and selling fraudulent degrees and transcripts.

    She also admitted to manufacturing counterfeit degrees, class transcripts and other academic products, using the names of legitimate U.S. universities, including the University of Tennessee, Texas A&M, the University of Maryland and George Washington University.

    Defense attorney Phillip "Dutch" Wetzel said he will ask that Dixie Randock be allowed to serve her sentence under "home confinement," but Jacobs, the assistant U.S. attorney, said he will ask for straight prison time, followed by three years of probation.

    Steven Randock's attorney, Peter Schweda, said he expects to ask for little or no prison time because the 67-year-old defendant suffers from heart problems.

    Attorneys for both Randocks asked the court to waive pre-sentence reports, which provide the court with a detailed background on the defendants. The prosecutor opposed that request. Suko said he would order the background reports to help craft his forthcoming sentencing decisions.

    The Spokane-based diploma-mill operation raked in an estimated $6.3 million in six years of operation, using the Internet to sell more than 8,200 phony college degrees and accompanying transcripts around the world, court documents say.

    The online schools claimed they were accredited by the National Board of Education in Liberia. As part of the case, the Secret Service learned Abdullah Dunbar, the deputy chief of the Liberian Embassy, was demanding cash bribes from the Randocks.

    The Liberian Embassy official, secretly videotaped in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., during the investigation, demanded bribes in exchange for lining up "accreditation" for Saint Regis University and other diploma mills and for handing out payments of $50 to $100 a month to Liberian educators posing as "faculty members" for the online universities.

    The task force was headed by agents with the Secret Service, with assistance from the Federal Protective Service, the IRS, a Spokane police fraud detective and investigators from the Washington state attorney general's office and the U.S. attorney's office.

    Dixie Randock, who used 11 aliases in the scheme, including "Patrick O'Brien, dean of studies at Saint Regis University," declined comment after leaving the courtroom.

    She got engraved diploma seals and fraudulent signature stamps for her cast of professors and deans from Carlson, a co-conspirator who operated a stamp shop in Hillyard. He also became "provost and chief academic officer" for Saint Regis University and "dean of studies" for Robertstown University, signing his name as "Professor Blackwell."


  • Amerikaanse geheime dienst waarschuwt voor frauduleuze 'universiteit': Belgische oplichter verkoopt in de VS waardeloze diploma's voor grof geld, Lotte Beckers, Brussels, Belgium De Morgen, March 14, 2008.


    Het Amerikaanse controleorgaan van onderwijsinstellingen waarschuwt voor Concordia College and University. Dat is een frauduleuze 'universiteit' die door de Belg Kristiaan D.L. geleid zou worden. Ook de geheime dienst zit op de zaak.

    ANTWERPEN: Vorig jaar nog werd in de Vernigde Staten een vrouw veroordeeld die een vals diploma psychologie gebruikte. Dat had ze verkregen van Concordia College and University. Die had ook banden met de even valse Saint-Regis University, waarvan de medewerkers momenteel in de VS terechtstaan.

    Vorig jaar werd de Amerikaanse Louise Wightman, beter bekend als Dr. Stripper, in Massachussets veroordeeld voor fraude en het onrechtmatig gebruik van de titel psychologe. Het voormalige Playboymodel en stripster had voor 13.000 dollar een doctoraat in de psychologie gekocht van Concordia College and University, naar eigen zeggen omdat ze vond dat ze "ghet doctoraat verdiend had."

    Opmerkelijk is ook dat een radiopresentator uit Fostoria, Ohio, er in 2006 in slaagde via Concordia een bachelordiploma in de wetenschappen te verkrijgen voor een hond.

    'Diploma mill'

    De Amerikaanse Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), dat de onderwijsinstellingen controleert, roept op om waakzaam te zijn voor de Concordia College and University, een zogenaamde diploma mill of 'universiteit' die tegen betaling diploma's verkoopt via het internet. De diploma's, van masters tot doctoraten, kunnen worden verkregen op basis van 'eerder verworven kennis'. De instelling beweert geaccrediteerd te zijn door Indonesië en Liberia. Dat laatste land liet echter al weten dat de erkenning niet geldig is. Verder wordt ook een erkenning door de National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) geclaimd. Die organisatie wordt door het Amerikaanse ministerie van Onderwijs en de CHEA echter ook als frauduleus beschouwd. De man achter NAHE, Richard Hayer, staat bovendien terecht omdat ook hij via het internet ongeldige diploma's verkocht, via de Saint-Regis University. Ook de VN-organisatie UNESCO bestempelde Concordia als dubieus.

    Volgens CHEA is het de Antwerpenaar Kristiaan D.L. die achter de Concordia universiteit zit. Op een oude website van de Concordia-universiteit, die niet langer online beschikbaar is, staat D.L. als afgevaardigd bestuurder van Concordia College and University. De man zou ook een doctoraat en een MBA behaald hebben aan de Trinity College and University, een instelling die in de VS eveneens bekendstaat als een diploma mill. De Morgen had inzage in een brief van de Amerikaanse ambassade in Korea, waarin D.L. gelinkt wordt aan Concordia.


    Daarbovenop had D.L. banden met de frauduleuze Saint-Regis University. Acht mensen achter die instelling worden momenteel vervolgd, onder andere voor fraude. Saint-Regis heeft zo'n 6.000 valse diploma's verkocht, in totaal voor 4,7 miljoen dollar. Bijna de helft daarvan werd 'uitgereikt' aan mensen uit het Midden-Oosten en Azië, die daardoor een visum voor de VS verkregen.

    Er is een website, eveneens niet langer online, waarop een 'authentificatie van een Concordiadiploma' te vinden is. Dat attest is ondertekend door Steven Randock, een beklaagde in de Saint-Regiszaak, en duidt D.L. aan als 'directeur en academicus van Concordia College and University'. De Saint- Regisbeklaagden hebben ook valse erkenningsorganisaties opgericht, waaronder het NAHE, dat de Concordia van D.L. erkende.

    Concordia is bovendien niet de enige diplomawinkel waaraan D.L. verbonden wordt: volgens CHEA is hij ook de man achter de Capitol University, die eveneens banden heeft met Saint-Regis.

    Het heeft er alle schijn van dat ook de Amerikaanse geheime dienst achter de man aanzit, al kan dat niet formeel bevestigd worden. Wel laat een bron binnen de geheime dienst weten dat "er in het dossier beweging zit." Ook CHEA zegt dat "er naar gekeken wordt." Kristiaan D.L. was niet bereikbaar voor commentaar.

    Rough translation:

    Belgian swindler sells in the United States worthless diplomas for coarse money

    The American supervisory body of educational warns against Concordia College and University. That is a fraudulent 'university' by the Belgian Kristiaan DL would be led. Even the Secret Service is on the case.

    Last year was still in the Vernigde States condemned a woman who used a fake diploma psychology. That she had obtained from Concordia College and University. They also had links with the equally false Saint Regis University, whose staff currently in the US trial.

    Last year was the American Louise Wightman, better known as Dr. Stripper, in Massachussets convicted of fraud and the unauthorized use of the title psychologist. The former Playboy model and stripster had 13,000 dollars for a doctorate in psychology purchased from Concordia College and University, to claim because they thought that they "had earned doctorate.

    It is noteworthy that a radiopresentator from Fostoria, Ohio, in 2006 succeeded in Concordia via a Bachelor diploma in sciences to obtain a dog.

    'Diploma Mill'

    The American Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which controls the educational, calls for vigilance for the College and Concordia University, a diploma mill 'or' university 'that charge diplomas sells over the Internet. The diplomas to doctorates, masters, may be obtained on the basis of previously acquired knowledge. The institution claims to be accredited by Indonesia and Liberia. The latter country had, however, already know that the recognition is not valid.

    Is also a recognition by the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE) claimed. That organization by the United States Department of Education and CHEA also considered fraudulent. The man behind NAHE, Richard Hayer, also justified because he also via the Internet invalid diplomas sold through the Saint Regis University. The UN agency UNESCO Concordia described as dubious.

    According CHEA it is the Antwerp Kristiaan DL who is behind the Concordia University. On a site of the old Concordia University, which is no longer available online, DL as deputy director of College and Concordia University. The man would be a doctorate and an MBA demonstrate to the Trinity College and University, an institution established in the USA also known as a diploma mill. De Morgen had access to a letter from the American embassy in Korea, where DL linked to Concordia.


    There had DL ties with the fraudulent Saint Regis University. Eight people behind that institution are currently being prosecuted, including fraud. Saint Regis has about 6,000 fake diplomas sold for a total of 4.7 million dollars. Almost half of that amount was "issued" to people from the Middle East and Asia, which became a visa for the United States.

    There is a website, also no longer online, which is a 'authentication of a Concordiadiploma' can be found. That certificate was signed by Steven Randock, a defendant in the Saint-Regiszaak, and indicates DL as' director and university graduate of Concordia College and University. " De Saint-Regisbeklaagden have also forged erkenningsorganisaties, including NAHE that the Concordia DL recognized.

    Concordia is bovendien niet de enige diplomawinkel waaraan DL verbonden wordt: volgens CHEA is hij ook de man achter de Capitol University, die eveneens banden heeft met Saint-Regis. Concordia is not the only diplomawinkel which is linked DL: according CHEA he is also the man behind the Capitol University, which also has ties with Saint Regis.

    It has seemed as if the American secret service behind the man aanzit, though not formally confirmed. Well let a source within the secret service that "there is movement in the dossier." Also CHEA says that "looked." Kristiaan DL was not reachable for comment.


  • State worker: Ph.D. only honorary. Legitimacy of school that issued degree questioned, Sarah Antonaccio, Springfield, IL Journal-Register, March 11, 2008.


    Vandella Brown, manager of the diversity program at the Illinois State Library, has a doctorate from the University of Berkley.

    That's B-E-R-K-L-E-Y, Michigan. Not B-E-R-K-E-L-E-Y, California. That's one difference.

    Another is that the University of Berkley has been identified by Pennsylvania authorities as a "diploma mill" — a for-profit, usually Internet-based operation, that issues fraudulent degrees.

    Brown said she considers her Berkley doctorate merely honorary, given in return for a charitable contribution, and that she has never used it for personal gain.

    "There's no other proper way to list it, but if anyone asks, I tell them, and it's on my regular resume (as honorary)," she said. "I wouldn't dare try to make something else out of it."

    "I have official degrees of master's and BA (a bachelor's degree)," Brown said in an e-mail Friday.

    "I do understand that this degree is a honorary degree in conjunction with a charitable donation given through that university. I have never used it for gain and have sited on my resume as honorary. Never tried to use it as gain in my professional, it has been strictly honorary for me.

    "I am worried now where my donation really went to," Brown wrote.

    Brown's resume lists the Berkley degree as: "UNIVERSITY OF BERKLEY, Berkley, Michigan, DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY DEGREE, Honoris Causa, June 2004."

    However, Brown has signed at least one memo as "Vandella Brown, Ph.D," and her biography on the North Suburban Library System doesn't suggest that her doctorate is an honorary one.

    Henry Haupt, spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state's office, under which the library is managed, said he was not familiar with Brown's educational background, but soon would be.

    "This is something we'll have to look into further. Secretary (of State Jesse) White takes very seriously the credentials of his employees," he said.

    If there's a university in Berkley, Mich., it's apparently well hidden.

    "We're only 2.2 square miles, and we only have a population of just over 15,000. We could have a small university, but I don't know where we'd put it," said Jane Bais-DiSessa, Berkley's city manager.

    The Web site for the university has a couple of disclaimers at the bottom of the home page, including that it was founded in Berkley, Mich., and "has no affiliation or connection whatsoever with the University of California at Berkeley campus!"

    The school's telephone number has a Chicago area code.

    And the Web site says that the owners and operators of the site may not conduct business with people who live in Pennsylvania. That may be because the Pennsylvania attorney general's office sued the University of Berkley in 2004.

    The suit arose after the school, which then was based in Erie, Pa., awarded a master's degree in business administration to a cat named Colby. The cat's application actually was filed by the attorney general's office.

    The suit identified Berkley's owner as Dr. Dennis Globosky, a former New Mexico state trooper, and accused him of selling fake degrees since the late 1990s. The Web site now lists Globosky as university president. (Also available on the school's Web site is a downloadable version of a song Globosky wrote and sung back in 1981, honoring the memory of John Lennon.)

    A person who answers the phone for the University of Berkley said that to get a degree, an applicant will receive a portfolio in which the applicant can include "all work related to the degree you seek, or even remotely related." A committee "sorts out" that information and assigns the applicant a project, the person said.

    The cost scale for a degree also is on the Berkley Web site. Prices range from $2,795 for an associate's degree to $4,995 for a doctorate. Discounts are offered for one-time payments.

    The school's slogan is: "True to reality ... not tradition."

    Brown said she was approached by Berkley about getting a doctorate degree through a woman's organization she belongs to. She declined to provide the name of the organization.

    "It first came to me in the form of a letter, and I don't remember how all it came about," she said.

    "I think the donation was $1,000, and it also entailed writing a long statement about yourself. There was no test. It was totally an honorary donation to a group of children they were helping in Zimbabwe."

    Brown's resume says she earned the honorary degree in 2004. Her salary history indicates she was hired by the state in September 2000 at a salary of $62,280 annually. She now makes $84,816, though there was no jump that indicates she rose a pay level because earning a degree...


  • Queries over UK degrees offered in Kenya, Morris Aron , Nairobi, Kenya Business Daily Africa, February 28, 2008.


    What's in a name? Probably everything in the education sector. Schools and colleges with a history, reputation and a string of well known alumni behind them tend to attract more interest from sponsors, parents and students, giving them a huge potential base from which to earn income in the form of fees, grants and endowments.

    It is now emerging that parents, guardians and self-sponsored students in Kenya could be losing millions of shillings in fees and other charges in the belief that they would get certificates from two famous UK universities — Cambridge and Oxford — through a correspondent relationship with the Digital Advisory Learning Centre (DALC).

    The centre, which has eight campuses across the country with a high concentration in Nairobi, claims to offer diploma and degree certification from the two universities but the reality is different.

    DALC collaborates with two institutions in the UK — Cambridge Association of Managers and Oxford Association of Management — which run two separate colleges offering management courses but which have no working relationship with either Cambridge or Oxford Universities.

    The colleges are accredited by Quality Assurance Commission Limited owned by a Malaysian businessman and which is not recognised by UK education authorities."There are two accreditation bodies in the UK and QAC is not one of them," Mr David Higgs, the head of British Council in Kenya told The Business Daily. Accreditation bodies in the UK fall under two categories, public and private.

    Private colleges are admitted through the British Accreditation Council and Accreditation Service of Independent Colleges. Mr Hicks said QAC is registered as a limited company.

    DALC shares the accreditation body with Irish International University (IIU), which has been locked in a scandal since investigations by the BBC found that it had issued fake degrees and diplomas to more than 5,000 international students in the last seven years.

    To pass off as a partner of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, IIU used to rent facilities for graduation at Oxford or Cambridge universities. DALC, on the other hand, insinuates in their marketing that they get certificates from the renown universities.

    They market their services on the strength of association with the two which, according to the BBC findings is nonexistent. The report concluded that the accreditation body was fake and had over the years presented bogus certificates to unsuspecting international students.

    The BBC findings contrast sharply with claims on DALC's website. "Assessments and issuance of certificates are done by the upgrading university at their discretion. All Cambridge or Oxford courses are assessed by Cambridge or Oxford and certificates are issued from UK."

    Then the reputation bit. "The Cambridge and Oxford courses have very good recognition and upgrades to bachelors or masters degrees are guaranteed as long as the student meets the performance criteria alongside other requirements of the accepting university." DALC has recently put up an elaborate television advertisement campaign where it states that it has an approval certificate from the Commission for Higher Education .

    A source at the commission, however, said the institution had only recently applied for a collaboration approval and that the commission was looking at the documents. "We have not issued any certificates to DALC. We are verifying the application," the source said on condition of anonymity.

    The British Council has also disassociated itself from the institution following complaints related to examinations and failure to confer credits for direct transfers to Oxford and Cambridge.

    "Questions arose from the kind of activities that the institution was involved in. We cut our ties with them in public interest," a British Council official said in a telephone interview. He declined to be quoted because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

    DALC head of mission Humprey Obura, however, said the institution was looking at developing its own curricula after cutting ties with QAC sometime last year. He said the website would be updated to reflect this.

    "We are in the process of initiating a new system where students assessment will be based on our curricula. We have however made it very clear that we are not a university," he said. The institution is in the process of seeking approval to administer its own programmes.

    When asked about the relationship with the questionable QAC, Mr Obura said the institution had cut his links with the body and was in the process of sourcing for other colleges in other parts of the world to link with.

    A statement from DALC website on the other hand read: 'You will receive a certificate from Quality Assurance Commission, UK (QAC-UK) confirming this accreditation which you can use uniformly in the world for acceptance of the credits hence exemptions from whole level of learning or particular subjects or modules.'

    When asked about the relationship between DALC and Oxford or Cambridge universities, the head of the mission said: "We need to meet and talk on issues surrounding accreditation and international university education."

    A web search for Royal Rhodes Institute (ostensibly based in Canada) — which he said DALC would collaborate with, however, returned no entries. Bogus institutions targeting international students have been on the spotlight in the UK recently.

    "Some of the colleges will say that they have been accredited but when you ask by whom, they name an institution which is in fact owned by them," a leading academic Professor Geoffrey Aldermann recently testified before the Home Affairs Committee.

    Accreditation experts in the UK estimate there may be as many as 1,000 private colleges operating across the UK targeting international students, which would fail quality standards.

    Many are found in congested precincts, often sandwiched between shops and office blocks.

    DALC has been operating in the country for close to four years and flags a validation certificate signed by Prof George Saitoti in fliers. It has listed a number of respected professionals in health, finance and other fields as its alumni. When contacted, a few of them declined to comment on the issue.

    A related story at the same URL: State to publish list of accredited colleges


    A list of all accredited colleges operating in Kenya will be published next month, effectively exposing bogus institutions purporting to be offering degrees on behalf of foreign universities.

    The Commission for Higher Education (CHE), the body charged with the responsibility of overseeing the establishment and accreditation of private universities has raised a red flag over a deluge of complaints from parents and students who had paid millions of shillings to such colleges.

    CHE secretary Prof Everett Standa says the Commission has already finalised a national audit on all institutions and a list submitted to the Government Printer for gazettement.

    However, he says efforts to identify unregistered institutions have been slowed by capacity constraints.

    This has seen the Commission revert to a wait and see attitude, relying mostly on complaints from students, parents and the general public.

    "We are working very hard on behalf of students to ensure that all private institutions meet strict quality standards.

    "Where we are not satisfied that this is the case with a particular college, we will not hesitate to investigate and if necessary, close it down," said Prof Standa.

    Educationists and employers have questioned the degrees and accused the colleges of churning out half-baked graduates, at a time when unemployment is biting in the country.

    "There are hundreds of institutions which had been licensed to offer certain programmes, but they had ended up rolling out different ones and we have identified them," Prof Standa told Business Daily.

    The end result is expected to be graduates with skills that can help them compete for jobs.

    The scenario in the local higher education sector is one where demand for vacancies has outstripped supply as indicated by the high number of student exports to Uganda, the US, Malaysia and the UK.This, Prof Standa said, had opened loopholes for rogue institutions offering degrees and diplomas to thrive, dealing a blow to the commission's reputation.

    "I would encourage all new students to carefully check the credentials of the college they wish to enrol at and if they have any concerns, contact their local trading standards team."

    Analysts said mushrooming of bogus colleges was brought about by the past inadequacies of CHE — which had the mandate of approving such institutions.

    The university education crisis continues to deepen every year, culminating into a large number of qualified high school graduates missing out on admission.

    Last year, for example, 63,104 out of 243,453 candidates who sat for KCSE qualified for university admission, but only 10,000 places were available in the six State universities. The remaining 53,000 had to fight for the few places in private universities or pursue their aspirations through parallel degree programmes.

    A government-appointed committee to assess the state of higher education recently warned that the number of students qualifying for university education annually will be more than 230,118 in 2015.

    According to Prof Standa, CHE has accredited at least 20 foreign institutions to offer degree programmes in collaboration with Kenyan universities and colleges over the last one year.

    Currently, CHE is vested with the responsibility of overseeing the establishment and accreditation of private universities. It also acts as the quality assurance authority for curriculum and degree programmes offered by the institutions.

    Public universities on the other hand, are established by an Act of Parliament with the supervisory role of programmes offered resting with respective university senates.

    In October last year, Education Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi said out of 544 registered colleges, only 10 offered courses recognized by the Kenya National Examination Council. The rest registered students for courses that were not approved by the council, the only institution with the mandate to vet programmes below university level.

    An editorial from Business Daily Africa: Close dubious colleges, Nairobi, Kenya Business Daily Africa, March 6, 2008.


    In our editorial yesterday, we tackled the question of phoney schemes.

    But what is worrying are alarm bells and revelations that thousands of Kenyans could be armed with questionable degree and diploma certificates that have been acquired from bogus colleges still operating in our midst.

    The Commission for Higher Education—which has been charged with the duty of validating higher educational programmes — has raised the alarm over dozens of un-accredited institutions which have mushroomed across the country purporting to offer all sorts of courses, mostly from foreign universities. We want to say: shut them down and lock up the proprietors.

    Parents, guardian and self-sponsored students have put millions into such institutions, in the belief that they will get certificates from foreign universities. They don't.

    With CHE saying it cannot police such institutions to ensure they are registered and their courses validated, policy gaps are apparent. But CHE cannot hide behind such a wall.

    Most owners of the institutions do not even bother approaching the Commission for validation of the programmes they are offering.

    The statistics were telling — just about 10 colleges have been allowed by CHE to collaborate with foreign universities to offer several programmes.

    The rest, believed to be many registered students for courses that were not approved by the Commission, which is the only institution with the mandate to vet programmes at university level.

    CHE can do better by educating Kenyans on the registered institutions. However, it must be pointed out that there are some middle-level colleges that offer their own courses and certificates with approval from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Before condemning those un-accredited colleges, we must also acknowledge that some of them may be offering international examinations recognised outside the country.

    The danger, however, as CHE boss Everett Standa puts it, is that locally, they are not recognised. Then serious questions arise.

    Just how many students have fallen prey to this mess and will employers start investigating the origin of the papers they have. What explanations will be given by the State for the fate of such Kenyans, who could end up jobless.

    Raising the alarm is perfect but the Government must crack the whip on the dubious colleges.

    Neither parents, guardians nor the students have the capacity to do this. If this is not done the higher education sub-sector is in danger of getting bogged down in a credibility crisis.


  • Spokane man accused of 'copy-cat' diploma mill, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, February 28, 2008.


    A federal task force that's three years into investigating a Spokane-based diploma-mill ring filed new charges this week against a man who is accused of running a "copy-cat" online university after working for Dixie Randock.

    Richard H. Cleigh is scheduled to appear Thursday before Senior U.S. District Court Judge Frem Nielsen after being charged with one count of wire fraud and a second count of mail fraud.

    The 55-year-old Spokane man is tentatively scheduled to enter a guilty plea, the court docket shows, but it doesn't specify whether he will plead to one or both counts.

    If he enters a plea, a written plea agreement is expected to detail how he set up his own online university.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney George J.C. Jacobs, the lead prosecutor for the "Operation Gold Seal" task force investigation of Spokane-based diploma mills, said today he couldn't comment on the new case but would offer details when Cleigh appears in court.

    As part of an expected plea agreement, Cleigh likely will seek "substantial assistance" and the prospects for a lighter sentence by agreeing to testify for the prosecution in the forthcoming criminal trial of Randock and three other remaining defendants. They were indicted in October 2005 and now are scheduled to stand trial in June.

    Between Aug. 1, 2003, and Jan. 24, 2004, charging documents say, Cleigh "created and operated an Internet diploma mill under the fictitious name "Saint John University of St. Vincent & The Grenadines."

    As part of the alleged scheme, Cleigh communicated with consumers using the name "Brother Andrew, creating the false impression that he was a member of a religious organization," the documents say.

    The charges don't disclose how many degrees Cleigh sold or how much money he collected

    "Cleigh falsely advertised that St. John University was founded in 1862 and was a private, non-secular university with a long and rich tradition of excellence," the charges say. He also claimed St. John was "the world leader in online degree evaluation" and that its degrees were "fully legal and valid."

    In truth, the charges say, Saint John University "was neither an existent or legitimate academic entity."

    The mail fraud count charge against Cleigh is linked to a separate, unrelated scheme in which he offered to sell South African Krugerrands.

    "He offered to sell non-existent gold coins to unwitting eBay purchasers," the charging document says.

    It lists 16 eBay customers who mailed $19,628 to Cleigh "who accepted their money but never sent the gold coins that had been promised."


  • Fake degree dealers thriving in S. Arabia, author, Bahrain, Bahrain Tribine, February 21, 2008.


    Unauthorised universities continue to blatantly operate through offices in the Kingdom despite periodic warnings by the Ministry of Higher Education through advertisements in Arabic newspapers, says Saudi Gazette.

    These suspect foreign universities include American University of London, Al-Shurook University, Belford University, and Al- Ishraq University.

    These universities have struck deals with commercial offices, telling them to enroll people wanting Bachelor's or Master's degrees and even PhD's online. "No studies, no admissions and no attendance required. Get a degree for what you already know," says Belford University in its website, making it clear that there's very little study, if at all, involved.

    No wonder the Ministry of Higher Education wants them out. "Universities that have not received permission from the Ministry of Higher Education are considered illegal and should be closed," said Mohammed Al- Owhly.

    The Ministry of Higher Education's website makes periodical announcements of which universities are allowed to operate in the Kingdom. Al-Owhly said four illegal universities' operation from Dammam was closed last year at the end of their first semester.

    Ahmad Al-Jamal, PR manager for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said they do not grant a foreign university permission to open an office in the Kingdom without it being accepted by the ministry concerned. He said the Ministry of Higher Education has the responsibility of weeding out illegal universities and institutions.

    It is often the case that illegal university operations spawn from projects licensed for other legal work.

    "We grant permission to universities that meet all universal requirements, otherwise we never issued any permission," Al-Owhly explained. "The Ministry of Commerce would license a project for a specific field but then the project operators would expand their activities to other unapproved fields." Establishing legal universities in the Kingdom requires several procedures.

    "We start by studying the project and sending a letter to the Minister of Higher Education. When he accepts the project, we transfer it to the legal affairs," said Dr. Waleed Al-Daly, Higher Education general manager. The proposed programmes, syllabus and training plans are studied and evaluated, Al-Daly said, involving several ministries and not only the Ministry of Higher Education.

    Al-Owhly said newspapers that publish advertisements of unauthorised universities and institutes should be taken to task.

    Samir Al-Zini, assistant marketing manager assistant at Al-Usbo'eyah weekly, said. "There is no control on such issues, we can easily publish anything, checking the advertisements' content is not our work."

    Al-Zini however said they do double check on advertisements of medical cosmetics, creams and makeup as these products could have dangerous effects. They do not publish such advertisements without the permission of the Ministry of Health.

    Zakiyah Al-Bishi of Marketing at Bidoon Waseet weekly newspaper, which publishes many university advertisements, said the legality of the universities was not their business.

    According to Al-Owhly, private universities and colleges that are approved for operations in the Kingdom are: Prince Sultan University, Arab Open University and Al-Faisal University in Riyadh, and Dar Al-Hekma, Effat College, Business Administration College, Soliman Fakih College for Science and Nursing, and Prince Sultan College for Tourism in Jeddah.


  • Executive sacked for faking CV, Mark Russell, Melbourne, Australia The Age, February 24, 2008.


    A senior Federal Government executive has been sacked after being accused of using fake qualifications to get a job with the very department that warns employers to be wary of fraudulent degrees.

    Bobby Singh had been recruited to a senior position within the former Department of Employment and Workplace Relations before his credentials were scrutinised.

    Checks revealed he had included on his curriculum vitae allegedly fake degrees from Harrington University and the Trinity College and University, in the United States. The two universities have been described as "degree mills," which sell degrees over the internet and require no educational assessment.

    The Sunday Age has obtained copies of the degrees that state Mr Singh has been awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy and a Masters of Science, both with a major in information systems, from Trinity, and a Masters of Business Administration from Harrington.

    A spokesman for the federal Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Department — which carries warnings about fake degrees on its website — said Mr Singh was employed as an executive level 2, with a salary of between $79,691 and $98,900 in 2005 after a merit selection process. He was sacked in December 2006.

    His case was due to go before the Federal Magistrates Court, but was settled out of court last year.

    Hundreds of thousands of Australians are thought to have overstated their educational achievements on their CVs. A PricewaterhouseCoopers forensic investigation of the CVs of staff at a large financial institution in 2003 found 40% contained "serious mis-statements", including fake qualifications.

    New anti-money laundering legislation has forced employers to become more vigilant, but a fake qualifications expert, Dr George Brown, says most employers accept background documentation at face value.

    "That's the problem," he told The Sunday Age.

    "How many people check? What skills and knowledge do they have to verify the authenticity of an academic qualification?"

    Dr Brown said that in today's "credential-conscious" society, "academic qualifications are items of value that are being falsified by people wanting to move ahead in society."

    Faking it

    * JANUARY 2008 Former Qantas engineer Timothy McCormack will stand trial in the NSW District Court for forging a maintenance engineer's licence. McCormack had been responsible for safety checks on the airline's fleet of Boeing 747s.

    * 2006 Former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld was revealed to have a PhD from Pacific Western University, which has been debunked as a diploma mill for handing out doctorates for the flat fee of $US2595 ($A2800).

    * 2003 Glen Oakley was sacked from his $1.2 million role as general manager of Sydney's Randwick Council after faking academic qualifications, including an MBA from Harvard University.


  • Woman accused of stealing from treatment center, Sarah Antonacci, Springfield, Illinois Journal-Register, February 13, 2008.


    An East St. Louis woman has been charged in federal court in Springfield with stealing more than $50,000 from a Montgomery County residential substance abuse treatment facility, a job she obtained with fake college credentials allegedly purchased online.

    She's also accused by the agency's board of failing to show up for work as required and neglecting to pay the Continuing Recovery Center's bills, leading to the Irving facility's utilities nearly being shut off. Janese E. Jordan, 41, was indicted by a federal grand jury Feb. 6, but the indictment was sealed until she was arrested and appeared in court, which happened Monday.

    Federal authorities allege that from December 2004 to December 2005, Jordan used her position as executive director to steal or embezzle more than $50,000, paying for such things as personal cell phones, a big-screen TV, vehicle repairs and a health club membership...

    "We fired her and went into her office, and there was at least six inches of bills and correspondence on her desk and another eight inches underneath," he said. "There was a letter from the power company that said they were going to shut off the gas and power the next day."

    The indictment alleges that Jordan forged names on checks using names of the center's board of directors, submitted false receipts for reimbursement and directed money to friends or family for her own personal use.

    Among the items the money was used for, according to prosecutors: cellular phones for her, her family and friends; the purchase of a big-screen television from Best Buy delivered to her home in July 2005; payment of $950 worth of someone else's dental work; payment of someone else's $543.94 credit card bill; a $950 repair bill for her own vehicle; and a $700 family membership at the Leisure World Health Club.

    Jurgena said Jordan had also made unauthorized donations of the center's funds to a rugby club she belonged to. According to a team roster, Jordan plays for The St. Louis Sabres. The club's Web site says the all-women team is St. Louis' oldest women's rugby club and was established in 1975.

    The indictment also accuses Jordan of falsely representing in her job application that she had bachelor's and master's degrees using a diploma and transcripts she had purchased for $1,114 from an Internet site. The paperwork was from St. Regis University, but she never took classes there...

    The charges are a result of an investigation by the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and the FBI. Patrick Hansen, assistant U.S. attorney, is prosecuting the case...


  • U.S. House passes bill cracking down on 'diploma mills', Bill Morlin, Spokane Spokesman-Review, February 8, 2008.


    The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a major higher education reauthorization bill that includes language to crack down on so-called diploma mills that sell fraudulent degrees and transcripts.

    The "College Opportunity and Affordability Act" includes portions of another anti-diploma mill bill sponsored by Rep. Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat.

    Her legislation was drafted in part in response to a major diploma mill based in Spokane that sold 6,000 university degrees worldwide. Many of those phony degrees were sold to individuals in Saudi Arabia who used them to get enhanced immigration status – becoming an issue of concern for U.S. Homeland Security officials tracking suspected terrorists...

    The new legislation, House Resolution 4137, passed Thursday on a vote of 354 to 58.

    Although she didn't sign on as one of several co-sponsors of the anti-diploma bill legislation introduced by McCollum, Eastern Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted for HR 4137. Her office didn't immediately issue a statement about the new legislation.

    Provisions of the legislation will "prevent the sale of fake degrees by creating clear standards of recognizing legitimate academic institutions and giving law enforcement officials the information to identity and prosecute diploma mills," said Bryan Collinsworth, a spokesman for Congresswoman McCollum.

    "This legislation is an important first step toward ensuring that every college degree reflects the high quality of our higher education system," McCollum said in a prepared statement.

    Fake diplomas, she said, "undermine that quality, and they have been used to carry out deceptions and crimes that are absolutely repugnant."

    Provisions of the "College Opportunity and Affordability Act" will instruct the U.S. Department of Education to create a list of accredited institutions and valid accreditation associations for immigration and federal employment and hiring purposes.

    The legislation also will establish a task force of higher education and law enforcement experts to develop a "strategic diploma integrity protection plan," and encourage the state to take similar steps.

    The legislation also will empower the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on diploma mills.

    A Senate companion version to the bill passed last year. Now, the House and Senate versions will go to conference committee to reconcile differences.

    "Though the Senate bill did not include the diploma mill provisions, the House language will likely be included in the final bill unless strong objections are raised," Collinsworth said today.


  • House Passes Bill Aimed at College Costs , Jonathan D. Glater, New York Times, February 8, 2008.


    Despite strong criticism from the Bush administration, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation on Thursday that would establish a federal list of the nation's most expensive colleges and crack down on the way student loan companies try to curry favor with college officials and gain access to their students.

    The bill, approved on a bipartisan vote of 354 to 58, broadly seeks to hold down costs at colleges by dissuading them from raising tuition. It would require the federal Education Department to publish a list of the most expensive colleges, and it would cut down on states' eligibility for new federal grants if the states reduced financing for public colleges.

    The administration has opposed many provisions in the measure, including one that would limit the Education Department's authority to regulate colleges through accreditation. But the White House has stopped short of a veto threat. Similar legislation has passed the Senate.

    Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke strongly in favor of fighting rising college costs.

    "The bill will create a higher education system that is more affordable and easier to navigate for consumers," said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and chairman of the education committee.

    Representative Howard P. McKeon of California, the committee's ranking Republican, praised the bill, even as he criticized Democrats for blocking amendments offered by Republicans...

    The bill is House Resolution 4137, the "College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007." Note that Title VIII, Part H-- Diploma Mill Prevention contains most of the text of Congresswoman Betty McCollum's House Resolution 773, the "Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2007."


  • Judge considers whether to send lawyers to Africa, Bill Morlin, Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review, February 6, 2008.


    A federal judge in Spokane heard arguments Tuesday over whether to send a team of defense attorneys, prosecutors and investigators to Africa at taxpayers' expense as part of the forthcoming criminal trial of the accused operators of a diploma mill.

    Defense attorneys for Dixie and Steve Randock want to take sworn statements from top-ranking Liberian officials, including a former ambassador who was videotaped taking cash bribes from a diploma-mill co-conspirator in a Washington, D.C., hotel room.

    The defense team argues the Liberia trip is essential for a fair trial – to show that the Randocks believed their various online universities were accredited by the National Board of Education in Liberia.

    "We need these (Liberian) witnesses to prove they weren't bribed," defense attorney Phillip "Dutch" Wetzel told the court.

    But federal prosecutor George Jacobs said the Liberian "accreditation" was nothing more than a lie on top of other lies perpetrated by the defendants, who routinely manufactured degrees and transcripts bearing signatures of fictitious university officials, along with counterfeit diplomas from legitimate U.S. universities.

    The testimony from the Liberian officials would be "irrelevant, speculative and inadmissible," Jacobs said.

    Arguments on the defense request to travel to the African country came after Judge Lonny Suko issued a 27-page ruling, denying an earlier defense motion to toss out evidence seized in March 2005 by a federal task force in the basement of a Post Falls office building.

    That evidence included billing records and names of individuals who purchased college degrees and accompanying transcripts from 125 universities operated by the defendants.

    The evidence, contained in cardboard boxes, was in an unsecured basement hallway, accessible to other building tenants and adjoining an office rented by the Randocks.

    Investigators got a search warrant to seize the evidence but left those documents with the building owner, not the Randocks.

    Using a ruse to keep their investigation secret, agents left a scribbled note on the hallway wall, saying the boxes of documents had been taken to a landfill by an "angry tenant."

    Suko ruled that the government had a "legitimate justification for its deception" to keep an ongoing investigation secret.

    "This is not a case where the government engineered and directed the criminal enterprise from start to finish or where the police employed physical or psychological coercion against the defendants," the judge said.

    His ruling was a setback for defense attorneys, who argued the evidence seizure involved "police misconduct" and shouldn't be used at trial. Suko didn't immediately rule on the Liberian trip.

    The judge scheduled another hearing for Friday and is expected to rule then or within days.

    Wetzel attempted to bolster his argument for the trip with testimony from defense investigator Brian R. Breen, a retired Spokane police detective.

    He spent 16 days in Liberia late last year, tracking down and interviewing some of the witnesses.

    Breen hired a driver and a bodyguard during his trip to the war-torn African nation, but he testified that he's been to other places "where I was more concerned about my safety."

    He said he saw U.N. peace-keeping troops and bomb-scarred roads. Breen also said that he didn't see much evidence of Western influence and was frequently approached by beggars, "but my impression was they really liked Americans."

    Wetzel also used a telephone conference to elicit testimony from Miguel Caridad, an assistant federal defender in Miami, who has made three trips to Liberia in preparing a defense for Charles Emmanuel, who is accused in the United States of torturing people in Liberia between 1999 and 2003.

    "I thought it was very safe," Caridad said of his trips to Liberia.

    Caridad was interviewing victim-witnesses, not Liberian officials who may have broken U.S. laws by accepting bribes, Jacobs countered, calling U.S. Secret Service Agent John Neirinckx to testify.

    Neirinckx, the lead investigator in the diploma mill case, testified that his consultation with other U.S. officials has led him to conclude there would be "safety concerns" for U.S. Justice Department personnel if they went to Liberia...


  • faux diplômes: La généreuse "Académie européenne" , La Libre, Belgium, Janary 31, 2008.


    A Rixensart, un vieux scientifique russe distribue des diplômes et titres. Un vrai moulin à diplômes. Même l'ex-dictateur du Turkménistan en a reçu un.

    Avenue des Azalées à Rixensart. Un beau quartier près des grands magasins et du cinéma. Une villa anodine et défraîchie.

    Nous voici pourtant au quartier général de l'Académie européenne d'Informatisation (AEI). Son président, Eduard Evreinov, 80 ans, de nationalité russe, nous reçoit sans sourciller. Il emmène le visiteur directement dans une pièce en contrebas. Son modeste bureau et son ordinateur représentent le campus de cette université virtuelle qui distribue des diplômes à tire-larigot et donne des migraines aux responsables de la Direction générale de l'Enseignement en Communauté française.

    M.Evreinov a obtenu en 1999, grâce à un avocat anversois, la personnalité civile pour son Académie. Un an plus tard, il débarquait en Belgique avec un statut de résident étranger. Sa notoriété de scientifique est grande et prestigieuse. Il a obtenu le prix Lénine en 1957. Mais ce qu'il va entreprendre en Belgique, dans un pays où la protection des titres universitaires est couverte encore par une loi de 1933 et où règne une très grande liberté d'enseignement, relève de la plus grande plaisanterie.

    Selon ses statuts, l'Académie est "une association internationale à but philanthropique, scientifique et pédagogique" qui n'a pas de but lucratif. Elle se propose, comme objectif suprême, "la formation d'un espace d'information mondial uni" et de dispenser des cours dans à peu près toutes les disciplines possibles, du cinéma jusqu'à la communication sous-marine.

    Un moulin à diplômes

    Mais surtout, l'Académie est ce que les Américains appellent un " moulin à diplômes ." En quelques années, l'Académie a distribué des centaines de diplômes à des gens qui, pour certains, n'avaient aucune qualification scientifique. Evreinov assure, sur ses multiples sites Internet, que pour recevoir un " Grand Doctorat " de l'Académie - appellation qui n'existe pas dans le monde universitaire belge -, il faut notamment avoir publié de 15 à 20 articles scientifiques et " trouvé une solution originale à un quelconque problème" . Il insiste sur le fait que les diplômes sont délivrés par des recteurs d'université.

    A lire la liste des récipendiaires cependant, le bien-fondé de cette démarche paraît complètement fantaisiste et semble servir l'ego des heureux élus, généralement des personnalités importantes en Russie. Ainsi l'ancien dictateur du Turkménistan, Saparmourad Niazov, a reçu le grade d'académicien pour "son apport éclairé à la démocratie en Turkménistan.".. On retrouve aussi les noms de l'ex-ministre russe Vladimir Boulgak et du maire de Moscou Youri Loujkov.

    L'Académie - qui opère aussi sous le nom de World Information Distributed University (WIDU) - a également accordé en 2001 un certificat et une médaille à l'ancien secrétaire général de l'Onu, Kofi Annan qui a promis, dans une lettre de remerciement, de continuer à "aider à résoudre les problèmes globaux." Deux Belges - Pierre-Henry Wigny, aujourd'hui décédé, et Guy Massange de Collombs, pendant trois à quatre mois en 2000 - ont figuré parmi les membres fondateurs de l'Académie.

    "La Belgique est un pays très libre pour moi", dit Eduard Evreinov. "J'essaie d'introduire un nouveau système en Belgique. Mais c'est très difficile. Le gouvernement belge ne le veut pas. Nous n'avons pas de diplômés en Belgique", assure-t-il.

    Malgré de nombreuses lettres de requête, Evreinov n'a jamais reçu la moindre agréation de la Communauté française. Il n'a pas plus obtenu la naturalisation belge, étant, dit-il, "trop vieux et un peu sourd."


    In Rixensart, an old Russian scientist distributes diplomas and degrees. A real diploma mill. Even the former dictator of Turkmenistan has received one of them.

    Avenue of azaleas in Rixensart. A nice neighborhood close to the department stores and cinema. A faded house.

    Here we are at the headquarters of the European Academy of Informatisation (AEI). Its president, Eduard Evreinov, 80 years of Russian nationality, greets us without winking. He brings the visitor to a room directly below. His modest office and computer are the campus of the virtual university that distributes diplomas to his heart's content and gives migraines to officials of the General Directorate of Education in the French Community.

    Mr. Evreinov won in 1999, thanks to a lawyer in Antwerp, civil status for his Academy. A year later, he landed in Belgium with a foreign resident's status. His reputation as a scientist is significant. He won the Lenin prize in 1957. But what he will undertake in Belgium, in a country where the protection of academic titles is still covered by a law passed in 1933, where there is a great tradition of academic freedom, is a big joke.

    According to its statutes, the Academy is "an international association with philanthropic, scientific and educational goals", which is not-for-profit. It describes its primary objectives as "the creation of a global unified information space" and the offering of courses in almost every discipline possible, ranging from film to submarine communication.

    A diploma mill

    But above all, the Academy is what Americans call a "diploma mill." Within a few years, the Academy has distributed hundreds of diplomas to people who, for some, had no scientific qualifications. Evreinov assures, on his various Internet sites, that to receive the "Grand Doctorate" of the Academy - a title that does not exist in the Belgian academic - you must have published 15 to 20 scientific papers and found an original solution to some problem. " He maintains that diplomas are issued by the administration of a university.

    To read the list of rcipients however, the merits of this approach seems completely fanciful and seems to serve the ego of the chosen, usually important people in Russia. As the former dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurad Niyazov, has been given the rank of Academician for "his enlightened contributions to democracy in Turkmenistan" ... There are also the names of the former Russian Minister Vladimir Boulgak and the Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov.

    The Academy - which also operates under the name World Information Distributed University (WIDU) - also granted in 2001 a certificate and a medal to the former secretary general of the UN, Kofi Annan, who has promised in a letter of thanks, to continue to "help solve global problems." Two Belgians - Pierre-Henry Wigny, now deceased, and Guy Massange of Collombs for three to four months in 2000 - were among the founding members of the Academy.

    "Belgium is a country that is very open for me," says Eduard Evreinov. "I am trying to introduce a new system in Belgium. But it is very difficult. The Belgian government does not want it. We have no graduates in Belgium," he assures.

    Despite numerous letters of complaint Evreinov never received any approval of the French Community. He has not become a naturalized Belgian because, he says, he is "too old and a little deaf."


  • Motion seeks removal of Aey from ballot, David Skolnick, Youngstown, Ohio Vindicator, January 24, 2008.


    The court could decide on the candidate's eligibility by early February.

    David P. Aey says he's proved he has the qualifications to be Mahoning County sheriff, and questions why the incumbent won't accept that.

    As promised, attorneys for Sheriff Randall A. Wellington filed a legal motion in the Ohio Supreme Court asking that the Mahoning County Board of Elections remove Aey's name from the March 4 Democratic primary.

    The elections board ruled Friday that Aey, of Boardman, is eligible to run for sheriff over the protest of Wellington. After the hearing, Wellington said he'd quickly file legal action with the court.

    "I am on the ballot, and the voters of Mahoning County have a right to choose their elected officials by voting on March 4," Aey said. "Mr. Wellington does not want to give the voters that same right. I find that insulting."

    Aey says he wants to debate Wellington on issues such as stopping violent crime, properly running the county jail and spending tax dollars in a lawful way.

    "That's fine," Wellington said. "My main issue is to prove he's not qualified to run for sheriff."

    Wellington, of Youngstown, contends Aey doesn't meet minimum supervisory requirements under state law to be a sheriff candidate.

    Citing a 1996 Ohio Supreme Court decision that states they "must liberally construe in favor of the person seeking to hold office," elections board members voted to keep Aey on the ballot.

    In Tuesday's filing, Wellington's attorneys said the elections board ignored a 2000 Supreme Court decision that says the requirements to be sheriff are not subject to "interpretative rules."

    The elections board will file a response with the court, which could rule on Aey's eligibility as soon as early February. The Democratic primary is March 4. Aey and Wellington are the only candidates in that primary. Republicans didn't field a sheriff candidate. The independent candidate filing deadline is March 3.

    Eligible sheriff candidates must either have at least two years of supervisory experience as a peace officer at the rank of corporal or above, or have served at the rank of sergeant or above in the five-year period before the filing deadline. If a candidate has neither of those, he must have at least two years of post-secondary education from an accredited college or university.

    Aey's attorneys acknowledged their client doesn't meet the educational qualifications. Aey received a diploma from Belford University, called an online diploma mill by experts.

    Aey never rose above the rank of deputy during his 15 years with the sheriff's department. But the elections board determined that his time as a field supervisor for the U.S. Marshals Service's Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force was equivalent experience.

    "Belford University" offered to sell me a doctoral degree in "Thoracic Surgery" based on my life experiences of reading the newspaper and watching the television evening news.


  • Bogus online degree hounds Suba confirmation, Mar-Vic Cagurangan, Micronesia © 2007 Marianas Variety, January 25, 2008.


    A throng of supporters showed up at the Legislature yesterday to testify in favor of Paul Suba's appointment as chief of the Guam Police Department, but there were a few critics who questioned his management principles, ethics, and attempt to use a degree from a bogus online institution to pad his credentials.

    Among those who endorsed the confirmation were Homeland Security advisor Dennis Santo Tomas, University of Guam Prof. Ron McNinch, police commander Joaquin Reyes, businessman Joey Lopez, and private citizen Cole Hendon, who all attested to Suba's leadership skills, professionalism, and dedication to his duty.

    "He's shown his sincere dedication to serving first hand on the front lines when called to duty. We need people like Paul to help us in moving the island toward progress," Santo Tomas told the public safety committee, chaired by Sen. Ray Tenorio, R-Yigo.

    "I know this man to have a good heart and his leadership will greatly enhance the Guam Police Department," Reyes said.

    Lopez said he is convinced that if confirmed, Suba would f