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Recipient of fake degree will plead guilty

Staff writer

A former deputy U.S. marshal who bought a bogus college degree online and used it to get a $15,000—a-year job promotion is scheduled to plead guilty to a federal crime next week in U.S. District Court in Spokane, public records show.

David F. Brodhagen is scheduled to enter the plea next Wednesday before Senior U.S. District Court Judge John C. Coughenour from the Western District of Washington. That date was rescheduled from Jan. 24.

The judge from Seattle was assigned the case after judges in the Eastern District, who all have worked with the 47-year-old deputy marshal in various criminal cases, recused themselves.

Brodhagen retired from the U.S. Marshals Service on Dec. 23 and was charged four days later with “official writings,” a federal charge accusing the public official of providing his employer, the U.S. government, with a document containing false information.

It is the first criminal prosecution of an estimated 6,000 customers who bought phony college degrees from 125 “online universities” operated by a Spokane-based diploma mill operation.

Eight members of the ring were indicted in 2005.

In a seven-page written plea agreement filed in court last week, Brodhagen said he intends to plead guilty to the federal misdemeanor. It carries a maximum possible sentence of one year in prison, a $100,000 fine and a year of probation.

According to a criminal complaint, “Brodhagen submitted an application for advancement within the U.S. Marshals Service which contained a representation that he held a college degree from Saint Regis University.”

He got the supervisory job in 2003, moving from a GS-12 rank with a 2006 salary of $80,975, to a GS-13 employee with an annual salary of $96,292.

In his plea agreement, Brodhagen admits he “knew the information (he) provided was false.”

If the court accepts the plea agreement, which it is not required to do, the government prosecutor will recommend that Brodhagen be given two years of probation, 80 hours of community service and a $500 fine.

As part of the plea bargain, Brodhagen would waive his right to appeal any sentence he receives.

He is represented by Spokane attorney Richard Bechtolt.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane was removed from handling the prosecution, and the case was turned over to Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Rostad, from the District of Montana, who filed the criminal complaint.

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