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Diploma mill case finished

Thu., April 10, 2008

The U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane has concluded its prosecution of eight defendants in a diploma mill fraud case, getting guilty pleas from everyone and canceling a trial that had been scheduled for June.

The only remaining defendant, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, pleaded guilty Wednesday to misprision of a felony – admitting she concealed an ongoing conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

She faces a maximum term of six months in prison when she is sentenced this summer. Her attorney, Richard Wall, said he will argue for home detention, but Assistant U.S. Attorney George Jacobs said he will ask that Markishtum serve her sentence in prison.

All the other defendants in the case, including ringleader Dixie Ellen Randock, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.

Markishtum’s plea came after she backed out of a similar plea bargain in late March when the other remaining defendants pleaded guilty.

The 28-page written plea agreement she signed Wednesday says Markishtum, a ninth-grade dropout, went to work for Dixie Randock in 2002, printing “fraudulent academic products” that the Randock operation sold to consumers worldwide. Markishtum also received payments for products sold by the diploma mill and communicated with consumers via e-mail and U.S. mail, using various aliases.

The U.S. attorney’s office hasn’t released the names of more than 8,000 consumers, including federal government employees, who bought phony high school or college degrees from fictional online schools that Randock created. Their operation also sold counterfeit copies of diplomas and grade transcripts from bona fide universities.

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