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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bogus degrees offer way to U.S.

Foreign nationals, including potential terrorists, could legally gain entry into the United States with fraudulent degrees purchased from Spokane-based diploma mills, documents made public Monday reveal.

Half the “degrees” sold by Saint Regis University and other diploma mills were sold to overseas purchasers, a majority of which were for “students” from Saudi Arabia, the documents say.

The documents don’t give a specific number of degrees sold overseas, but they disclose the operation based in Spokane and North Idaho has “made millions” in the last few years.

Offshore bank accounts are being used as part of the alleged money-laundering operation directed by Dixie and Steve Randocks, the documents allege.

An eight-month task force investigation, outlined in the documents, revealed that a top-ranking Liberian diplomat based in Washington, D.C., was soliciting cash bribes from the Randocks and their associates based in Spokane, Post Falls and Arizona.

The Liberian Embassy official demanded the bribes in exchange for lining up “accreditation” for Saint Regis University and other diploma mills and for arranging payments of $50 to $100 a month to Liberian educators who would pose as “faculty members” for the online universities.

As part of the investigation, the demands for the “cash payments” were secretly videotaped during a July 5 meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., where an undercover U.S. Secret Service agent from Spokane attempted to buy an online diploma mill for $100,000.

Abdullah Dunbar, the deputy chief of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C., demanded $5,000 and an expense-paid trip to his homeland to finalize accreditation for the online university, the court documents allege.

Asked if any laws were being violated by making such a demand, Dunbar responded, “Nah, I’m a diplomat,” according to the court documents. If he isn’t charged, U.S. authorities are expected to seek Dunbar’s deportation, according to a source familiar with the case.

There have been no arrests, and no criminal charges have been filed.

But a 141-page affidavit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, makes it clear that the task force is on the verge of seeking federal charges for conspiracy, wire and mail fraud, money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, income tax evasion and engaging in “prohibited foreign trade practices.”

Federal sources say the most troubling aspect of the investigation revealed that foreigners who purchased such bogus online degrees could then be eligible for “H1-B” visas, using their educational backgrounds as reasons for legitimate entry into the United States.

During the investigation, an undercover Secret Service agent using the name “Mohammed Syed” applied for a college degree from James Monroe University.

The applicant, court documents say, filled out an online application, claiming he had obtained “multiple hours of training in chemistry and engineering” as a member of the Syrian Army.

Syed said he was in the United States on a visitor’s visa, “but wanted to quickly obtain college degrees so he could find employment and obtain a H1-B visa to remain in the United States,” the documents say.

Within a month, the operators of the bogus online university, believed to be based in Spokane, responded by e-mail, telling Syed he could purchase college degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering for $1,277.

“The payment form also provided the opportunity for ‘Mohammed Syed’ to backdate any of his degrees and choose whatever date of completion he would like,” the documents said.

The meeting with Dunbar at the Washington, D.C., hotel was set up by Richard Novak, of Peoria, Ariz., identified in court documents as an associate of Dixie and Stephen Randock.

The Randocks’ home in Colbert, just north of Spokane, and their business office at 14525 N. Newport Highway were among five locations in the Spokane area searched last week by a multi-agency federal and state task force, led by the U.S. Secret Service.

Novak told an undercover agent that the Randocks’ three main online universities, Saint Regis, Robertstown and James Monroe, “have made millions of dollars over recent years.”

Despite some recent “negative press (attention), James Monroe and the other schools are still fully recognized and accredited by the Liberian government,” Novak told the agent, according to the documents.

Agents also searched Novak’s home in Arizona and a business office in Post Falls, used for shipping diplomas, and a stamp works at 5210 N. Market, operated by Blake Carlson.

Documents seized in the search show the Hillyard businessman has conspired with the Randocks, listing himself as the “dean of studies” of Robertstown University, and “provost and chief academic officer” for Saint Regis University – two of the bogus diploma mills.

Carlson also describes himself as “co-founder of the World Chapel Ministries,” which says it is “dedicated to the mission of helping Christians through the life experiences, missions and ministry attain valid, government-recognized degrees, ordinations and certifications.”

In the course of the investigation, the undercover Secret Service agent also purchased a high school degree, a two-year associate of arts degree, and a four-year “bachelor’s degree in pre-law.”

He also purchased “official transcripts for four full years’ worth of college classes which never occurred,” the court documents say.

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