It has been more than a year since the last of eight defendants pleaded guilty in a federal fraud case spawned by a Spokane diploma mill. But the legal gears grind on, as they should.
Some 10,000 people worldwide paid millions of dollars for meaningless college and high school diplomas in a scheme masterminded by a 58-year-old high school dropout. Using a variety of aliases, Dixie Randock dreamed up several phony universities and operated them out of offices in Spokane and Kootenai counties. Randock and seven accomplices, including her husband, were prosecuted and sentenced.
Meanwhile, however, thousands of bogus diploma holders around the globe continue to profit from the fraud that gained them jobs and promotions, many at taxpayer expense.
Among those who acquired bogus degrees, and in some cases counterfeit diplomas from legitimate colleges and universities, were employees in such federal agencies as the CIA, the National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and NASA – even the White House staff.
In February 2008, a former deputy U.S. marshal in Spokane, David F. Brodhagen, pleaded guilty to lying on a federal job promotion form because he used a sham degree to qualify him for a pay raise.
Now we learn that the Army is matching the list of the Randocks’ customers against its personnel records. About two dozen Army, National Guard and Army Reserve members are facing disciplinary action over invalid academic credentials used to advance their careers. Military officials say it’s a laborious process, but a thorough investigation is in order, and not just to prevent lazy soldiers from pulling a fast one. There are at least three reasons it’s in the public interest for the military and other agencies to continue the search for opportunists who engaged in the masquerade.
•It’s theft of public funds.
•Putting unqualified people in sensitive jobs may endanger public safety.
•Since a degree makes it easier for a foreigner to enter the United States, it could be a tool for terrorism.
With tuition levels soaring, diploma mills will be as tempting as ever. But by tracking down and dealing with service members who collected undeserved benefits, the Army lets unscrupulous and lazy people know that the shortcut isn’t worth the risk, which in turn makes the scheme less attractive to potential con artists.
In the meantime, the military, the government and our public school systems need to scour their records and tighten their personnel practices against fraudulent academic credentials.
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