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Diploma-Mill Operator Must Pay Fine Of $10,000, Serve 18 Months in Prison

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An operator of several "diploma mills" who sold false academic credentials to hundreds of people around the world has been sentenced by a federal judge to 18 months' imprisonment and fined $10,000.

According to federal investigators, Stanley J. Simmons on Feb. 1 pled guilty to two counts of mail fraud before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in Charlotte.

The sentencing was the latest development in the Federal Bureau of Investigation's ongoing crackdown on illegal mail-order "universities,'' which sell bogus bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees.

Mr. Simmons had been charged with acting as a "broker" for several such "universities" from 1979 to 1985. They include American National University, in Phoenix, Ariz., and Miami; American International University, also in Phoenix; North American University, in Stuart, Fla.; and Southwestern University, in Tucson, Ariz., St. George and Salt Lake City, Utah, and Columbus, Ohio.

According to court documents,4Mr. Simmons was involved in the sale of 220 degrees and transcripts from those diploma mills at prices ranging from $1,695 to $4,910 each.

Most of the "students" applying for the false degrees were from South and Central America, and Middle Eastern countries, according to Otho Allen Ezell Jr., a special agent for the fbi in Charlotte who headed the investigation.

'Students' Identified

The names of those who purchased the degrees are contained in court documents released last October, when another diploma-mill op8erator affiliated with the same bogus universities was sentenced. (See Education Week, Oct. 5, 1988.)

Clarence E. Franklin Jr., who sometimes used the fictitious name John O. Caraway, pled guilty to one count of mail fraud on Sept. 26, 1988. He was sentenced to a three-year suspended sentence, with five years of probation and a $1,000 fine, according to court documents.

Both Mr. Franklin and Mr. Simmons cooperated with federal officials, Mr. Ezell said, noting that the fbi investigation was continuing.

Of the 292 "students" who obtained degrees through Mr. Simmons' and Mr. Franklin's operations, 100 were in education. But only 21 of the students who sought education degrees did not list a foreign address.

The fbi investigations of U.S. diploma mills have forced operators to look for business overseas, where American academic degrees are often held in high regard, Mr. Ezell said. Thus far, the fbi operation, begun in 1980, has resulted in the indictment of more than a dozen operators of fraudulent schools.--lj

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