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Sunday, January 9, 2005

Academic Fraud: Degree Mills are Billion Dollar Business

There were a large number of resumes that had to get changed in a hurry once the Pennsylvania Attorney General busted the "Trinity Southern University" diploma mill. Another example proving you can't believe everything you read on the Internet. AP reported last month:

The Pennsylvania attorney general's office Monday sued an online university for allegedly selling bogus academic degrees -- including an MBA awarded to a cat.

Trinity Southern University in Texas, a cellular company and the two brothers who ran them are accused of misappropriating Internet addresses of the state Senate and more than 60 Pennsylvania businesses to sell fake degrees and prescription drugs by spam e-mail, according to the lawsuit.

Investigators paid $299 for a bachelor's degree for Colby Nolan -- a deputy attorney general's 6-year-old black cat -- claiming he had experience including baby-sitting and retail management...

The defendants are the school; Innovative Cellular and Wireless Inc. of Corpus Christi, Texas; Alton Scott Poe of St. Cloud, Fla., vice chancellor and dean of admission for Trinity; and Craig Barton Poe of Frisco, Texas, president of Innovative Cellular.

• Prior to and surprisingly after the bust The Online Assurance Bureau still said this about Trinity Southern University:
Trinity Southern University appears to be a legitimate and worthy company for those who desire a nontraditional degree and understand how the degrees can and cannot be used. Compared to the cost of a traditional college degree of $15,000- $50,000 they provide excellent overall value to the buyer. The OnlineAssuranceBureau has no reservation concerning TSU.

Actually the "onlineassurancebureau.com" appears to be part of the scam. First, create a bogus university. Then have other bogus web sites vouch for its legitimacy.

• resumes with "Trinity Southern University":
resume #1
resume #2
resume #3
resume #4
etc, etc.

•• Allen Ezell was the founder and chief of the FBI's diploma mill task force, he pursued fraudsters for 25 years who sell fake academic credentials using anonymous mailboxes, website hoaxes, and spam. He retired and wrote a new book with John Bear, Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas (Prometheus Books, $19). US News recently interviewed Mr. Ezell.
Who is buying these diplomas?

Anyone and everyone. There is a police officer in Florida with a fake degree who, ironically, is in charge of cybercrimes. We've seen 11 schoolteachers in Georgia who purchased fake degrees to comply with the new requirements in the No Child Left Behind Act. There have been government employees like Laura Callahan in the Department of Homeland Security, who wrote a chapter in our book from the perspective of a degree-mill victim. When I left the FBI, we had 12,000 names [of fake-degree recipients] in our database.

Online University Sued for Fraud After Awarding MBA to Cat [law.com, Dec. 8, 2004]
HSD official obtained Ph.D. from diploma mill [Washington Technology]
Hot on the trail of academic fraud [US News, Jan. 17, 2004]
Trinity Southern University [poliblog.org]
Good Kitty, Bad Humans [stnate]
Lab chief apologizes over online doctorate [boston.com, Nov. 13, 2003]

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