Information resources concerning unaccredited degree-granting institutions

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 94809...
    (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

    eXTReMe Tracker

    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 and Diploma Mills: Degrees of Deception
  • 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.  

    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

  • Creola Johnson, Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law: Credentialism and the Proliferation of Fake Degrees: The Employer Pretends to Need a Degree; The Employee Pretends to Have One, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper Series No. 78, Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 51, Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Vol. 23, 2006.

  • Creola Johnson, Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law: Degrees of Deception: Are Consumers and Employers Being Duped by Online Universities and Diploma Mills?, Ohio State Public Law Working Paper Series No. 78, Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies Working Paper Series No. 51, Journal of College and University Law, Vol. 32, p. 101, 2006.

  • Boston College Center for International Higher Education: Higher Education Corruption Monitor.

  • National Council on Student Development (an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges): Avoiding Academic Documentation Fraud...,

    Click here for useful investigative tools



    In the news

  • 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.)
    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) Contact:
    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: