Anatomy Of A Sting

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Diploma mills often obtain fake accreditation in order to appear legitimate. In October 1988, Missouri Assistant Attorney General Erich Vieth and his staff launched a sting operation to expose the shady practices of the International Accrediting Commission for Schools, Colleges, and Theological Seminaries. Posing as officials of a fictitious "university," they invited the accrediting agency to evaluate their "program."

On Monday of the week that the accrediting commission's operator, George Reuter Jr., was to visit and evaluate the attorney general's "university," Vieth and his staff rented some furniture and set up a small office in St. Louis. Reuter visited on Wednesday, and the furniture was gone by Friday.

Any credible accreditation official would have spotted Vieth's "school" as an obvious fraud. Vieth and his staff gave Reuter plenty of clues. They included:

  • Latin phrases in the college's official seal, which translated into "Education is for the birds" and "Everything from petty theft to highway robbery."
  • College advisory board members who included Peelsburi Dobouy (alias Pillsbury Doughboy), Wonarmd Man (One-Armed Man), Eddie Haskell (a smarmy friend of Wally's in "Leave it to Beaver"), Arnold Ziffel (the pig in "Green Acres"), and Lawrence Fine (of the Three Stooges).
  • The college's library consisted of one small bookcase half-filled with books, including the college's marine biology text, The Little Golden Book of Fishes.

Reuter "accredited" the bogus school. The state of Missouri sued Reuter under consumer-fraud laws. Last fall, a judge ordered him to cease all accrediting activities in the state and to pay the state of Missouri $15,000.

Vol. 01, Issue 04, Page 73

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