Manufacturing a GW education

Several individuals in Washington state are on trial for allegedly producing fake diplomas and transcripts from GW and several other universities.

Dixie and Steven Randock are being charged with fraud after investigators busted their Spokane, Wash., “diploma mill” in 2005. Court filings last week added GW to a list of four schools whose diplomas and transcripts were being forged. Other schools involved were Maryland, the University of Tennessee and Texas A&M.

“The University was surprised to learn last week of accusations involving counterfeit diplomas bearing the institution’s name,” said Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson.

The exhibit presented to the court is a photocopy of a fraudulent GW diploma with the major “Information Systems Security,” in addition to a fake GW transcript. Information systems and security is not a degree offered by the University.

George Gollin, a diploma mill expert, said about 6,000 people have bought diplomas from this operation.

“We are awaiting further information in order to determine whether additional action is necessary,” Schario said.

The University registrar’s office often receives calls from employers trying to verify graduation data. Out of the 625 inquiries in December, 11 percent were for people who had not actually received a degree.

Elizabeth Amundson, the University registrar, said there are several steps taken to prevent people from creating fake diplomas.

“There are a number of steps the office of the registrar takes to authenticate credentials awarded by the various schools of the University,” Amundson said. “Official transcripts are printed on unique safety paper which cannot be photocopied and bear the signature of the University registrar in tri-colored ink.”

The Randocks were indicted along with six other individuals who were hired to help do jobs such as evaluating applicants seeking degrees, producing official stamps for the diplomas and setting up meetings in D.C.

Along with being charged for selling fraudulent academic degrees, defendants are also being charged for child pornography and for bribing foreign government officials from the Republic of Liberia.

If the defendants are convicted of the wire and mail fraud conspiracy, they could each be sentenced to up to five years in prison along with a $250,000 fine, according to a Justice Department news release.

“I think it would be perfectly appropriate for GW to take the sort of legal action that they might upon finding that this is being done,” Gollin said.

He added, “It’s the kind of thing that I would expect (GW’s) legal staff to go after.”

Some students are similarly angered.

Sophomore Emily Berger said, “I’m frustrated that people are finding ways to circumvent the system and devalue my degree.”

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