A Spokane, Wash., man pleaded guilty last week to being part of a conspiracy that used the Internet to sell thousands of bogus degrees from the phony St. Regis University and other so-called diploma mills.
Blake A. Carlson, the owner of a rubber-stamp company, admitted in an agreement with federal prosecutors that he made seals and signature stamps used to create false degrees. He also evaluated customers’ applications for advanced degrees, using the alias Professor Blackwell, even though he had not graduated from college.
Court papers allege that from 1999 to 2005, the scheme sold $4.7 million in fraudulent academic products to customers worldwide. Fake degrees were issued in subjects including nursing, chemistry, and radiological sciences.
Among purchasers of education degrees from the phony university, which purported to be based in and accredited by Liberia, were a handful of educators from five Georgia districts. They were fired after a scandal in 2004. (“Educators’ Degrees Earned on Internet Raise Fraud Issues,” May 5, 2004.)
Under the March 7 plea agreement, Mr. Carlson could be sentenced to five years in prison and fined $250,000 for the felony.
Seven others have been indicted in the case, including the scheme’s alleged leaders, Dixie E. Randock and her husband, Steven K. Randock Sr., of Colbert, Wash. Their trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 16 in U.S. District Court in Spokane.
A version of this article appeared in the March 22, 2006 edition of Education Week