8News Investigates: Fake Diplomas Are Easy to “Earn”

In today’s competitive job market you might be tempted to beef up your resume.

Diploma mills crank out fake degrees and job seekers are using them to dupe employers.

8news Investigative Reporter Kerri O’Brien learned it’s easy to get one and exposes a company mailing bogus diplomas out of an office in the Richmond area.

You may have seen the ads for Ashley University. Ashley, based in California advertises online courses to help you earn your Associates degree, Master’s degree or even a Ph-D.

But when you call, prospective students like Kerri are given and elaborate explanation about how work experience is enough for a diploma. In other words, a Master’s without ever having to take a course.

Kerri had to submit her resume for approval but after that she was told she could get a Masters or even a PH-D. It just depended on how much she wanted to spend.

The bill for her Masters’, $493.

Ten business days later, her Master’s arrived in the mail from an address in Henrico.

It also included a transcript for the so-called courses Kerri took online. It had her grades and all.

A 3.67 GPA, not bad.

But only C-Plus in principles of communication.

“They make it look very legitimate,” says Sylvia Rosa-Casanova with the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia.

Kerri shared her degree with her.

“Usually something like this would have the accreditation on it and it doesn’t have anything, she tells Kerri.”

As Kerri suspected, the diploma wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

“This is a Master’s degree it has an art appreciation class at six credits, that’s a red flag. These course numbers are very strange, Master degree courses are not small numbers usually over 500, ” says Rosa-Casanova.

Rosa-Casanova says Ashley University is nothing more than a diploma mill, scamming people out of money with their fake degrees.

The U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation says diploma mills are big business. It’s estimated more than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S. alone.

Despite Ashley’s website claims, Rosa-Casanova says they are not an accredited University.

And she warns if you might be thinking about padding your resume with one of these fake degrees, you could not only lose your job if you get caught but you could do jail time.

Knowingly using a fraudulent degree to obtain a job is a class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2500 fine.

With this information, Kerri headed to that Henrico office where the diploma was mailed from, hoping to talk with someone from Ashley.

“This is Regis we lease our office space to small business’s. They are a virtual office client,” a woman at the front desk told Kerri.

Workers there had no connection to Ashley and had no idea they were mailing out fake degrees.

“They just ship to us and we give it to U-P-S,” said another worker.

Kerri then called Ashley back asking if they were really a diploma mill.

On the phone with a supervisor Ashley still claims Kerri’s diploma is real.

But they do change their tune and now tell Kerri Ashley is not regionally or nationally accredited but globally accredited.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia says it doesn’t matter what accreditation board Ashely says they have unless they are accredited with the U.S. Department of Education the Diploma, the diploma is worthless.

Ashley declined to do an interview with 8News or issue a statement.

State officials are checking to see if there is any action they can take against Ashley University since diplomas are being mailed out of an office in Henrico.

However, because Ashley is producing fake diplomas in California they’re hands maybe tied.

To see if your school is accredited with the U.S. Department of Education log on here.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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