Fake degrees: Exposing Canadians with phoney credentials (Marketplace)

Fake degrees: Exposing Canadians with phoney credentials (Marketplace)

October 13, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


[ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: This is your Marketplace. We expose the shady business of fake degrees.>>The magnitude will blow your mind.>>Asha: Who’s fooling you? We want to talk to you about your questionable PhDs. We track down the fakers. Why would you purchase a fake degree? We follow the trail to Pakistan, reveal the operation behind it all.>>Asha: You can’t afford to miss this. [ ♪♪ ]>>All right. Eric, time to get schooled.>>Asha: We’re looking to beef up our credentials.>>There are so many online programs out there.>>Asha: Hundreds to choose from. But how do you know which one to trust?>>I just found you guys online, and I was looking to see if I could get a degree or inquire about some education.>>So what’s involved in the schooling? [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: This is just our first step in exposing an international underground scheme.>>So no courses, no classes. I just pay a fee and I get a degree?>>Just out of curiosity, there is no one I can meet up with or chat with in person, I guess?>>I get to choose the date when I graduate?>>Asha: We’re on a journey to find out how long it will take for these journalists to become doctors. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: To get the lowdown, I’m meeting up with former FBI agent Allen Ezell. [ ♪♪ ]>>It’s a bonanza. There’s a worldwide market for academic credentials. The paper opens the door to getting the job, getting the promotion, getting the raise.>>Asha: He spent four decades investigating schools offering fake degrees. They’re called diploma mills.>>We’re not talking about classroom. We’re not talking about learning. It’s all smoke and mirrors and a façade. None of it exists.>>Asha: American research shows more than half of all new PhDs in the US are fake. [ ♪♪ ] [ ♪♪ ]>>We want to know how big the problem is here in Canada. Okay, guys, ready to check out this database?>>Let’s do it.>>I’m ready.>>Asha: We get our hands on an exclusive database of more than 800 Canadians from coast to coast to coast that show they could have fake degrees.>>Check this out, a medical doctor in a small town in BC.>>A former police officer on this list.>>A professor who teaches at Seneca college.>>Asha: There’s even an ordained minister in here. Politicians, pharmacists, business owners, engineers, they’re all on our list. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: We’re starting our investigation with counsellors treating serious medical conditions with fake degrees.>>On.>>Turn this on too.>>Asha: Getting wired up to see what the’ll reveal in person, posing as a couple in crisis.>>Asha: Are you two prepared for some relationship counseling?>>As ready as we’ll ever be.>>Asha: Good luck.>>Thank you.>>Thanks. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: First up, meet Alfred Ojo. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: He treats ADHD, anger management, depression, PTSD. The list goes on.>>Asha: Ojo says he was educated in Nigeria and the US. His online profile says he has a Masters in Counseling Psychology from Ashley University.>>Asha: So Ojo’s degree is bogus. But maybe his counseling skills are real.>>Asha: Much of this session is focussed on giving us metaphors about relationships like this one about lasagna.>>Asha: We’re just journalists, but this session seems odd. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: So at Western University, I check in with someone who can break it down for us.>>How many fingers?>>Asha: Psychology professor Dr Alan Leschied.>>We hold the public’s trust. In that, the public has an expectation of a quality of service. Because these are the most vulnerable times in their lives.>>Asha: We show him parts of our session with Alfred Ojo. His opinion…>>I don’t want to comment so much directly on this individual. Although, probably anybody seeing that would raise their eyebrow, and say, “Jeez, is that what therapy is? “That’s what I get over “the clothesline with “my neighbour.” That is not therapy. [ ♪♪ ]>>Nice to see you again.>>Asha: We go in a second time with more questions about Ojo’s education.>>Asha: This is the question that really seems to throw him for a loop.>>Asha: Wait a second. His LinkedIn profile says he went there from 2007 to 2008.>>Asha: And with that, he walks out of the room, looks like he needs a break from our team’s questions. But now, I have some of my own. We have tried to contact you more than once to share your perspective about your Masters Degree from Ashley University. Please give us a call back. Alfred Ojo never calls us back. So we try again in person. Remember, he’s been counseling patients for over two decades. Mr Ojo. My name is Asha Tomlinson. I’m with CBC Marketplace. We want to talk to you about your questionable degree from Ashley University.>>Excuse me, I’m not ready to talk to you about that.>>Why not? We’ve reached out to you several times. Why wouldn’t you just share your perspective on why you have this fake degree from a questionable institution?>>Because you know, I don’t know how you got the information, and I don’t think–>>Asha: We have a list of Canadians, and that includes you. You’re on that list. Why would you purchase a fake degree? What about the people who believe in you as a counsellor who trust you and your credentials? Sir. Ojo never admits to buying his degree. And after we reach out to him, he pulls down his LinkedIn profile and says he’s no longer taking new clients.>>Actions speak louder than words. You got the message across. He had a fake degree and he’s not going to expose himself any further. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: We’re still trying to buy our very own fake degrees.>>Hi, is this Ashwood University?>>This is Corrlins University, correct?>>So, check this out. I just found Almeda University. When you check them out online, the first thing that pops up is Life Experience Degree.>>I’m looking to get a degree.>>Asha: Almeda, Corrlins, GatesVille, Ashwood all say they’ll trade in life experience for credit hours. Send in your resume, your money and just wait for your degree in the mail.>>So what’s the total I’d be paying?>>Asha: We get the whole package, including proof we attended the school. But we’re told it’s apparently above board.>>So, what you’re saying is Almeda is legit?>>Asha: Not what we’ve heard.>>Almeda has never been real. It’s never been legitimately, traditionally accredited by a recognized entity in it’s life, period.>>Asha: While we wait for our degrees to arrive, we notice Almeda shows up dozens of times in our research including with this Toronto psychotherapist and registered social worker.>>Asha: Dr Gilbert Correces. He says he has a Masters in Social Work from the Philippines and this PhD in Biblical Counseling. His online profile boasts a 4.0 GPA. Treating very serious issues. Substance abuse, PTSD, ADHD, child abuse, and more.>>Asha: We don’t need to ask about his degree, it’s hanging on his wall.>>And you have a PhD from Almeda.>>Asha: Remember, Almeda does not exist.>>Two years?>>Can I stop you right there?>>Yes, you can.>>So, I can c– Okay, it takes two years.>>Asha: Two years.>>No.>>Asha: Psychology professor Dr Alan Leschied says writing a dissertations usually takes much longer than that.>>Typically four years, sometimes five years and sometimes even longer. Original work. It’s not a click and paste activity.>>Asha: We give Gilbert Correces a second chance to explain his schooling.>>Asha: Wait. What? It’s in California now.>>Asha: And when our producers continue to test his skills asking for advice on how to handle long distance relationships, things get really bizarre.>>Asha: Professor Leschied is not impressed.>>You don’t disclose things of a personal nature inappropriate that are focussed on yourself. If you’re just telling these stories because you’re trying to be seen by your clients in certain ways because it makes you feel better or whatever, those are boundary violations.>>Asha: We spent weeks asking Correces for an on camera interview. He says no. So we meet up with him near his work. I’m Asha Tomlinson with CBC Marketplace.>>You put me right on the spot, hey?>>Asha: Our investigation shows that Almeda University is a fake institution. Why did you get your degree from them?>>Well, how did I know about that?>>Asha: We just paid a fee and we were able to order a PhD.>>Really? That’s good for you. Well, if you don’t do any work. Some people work and some people cheat.>>Asha: Did you cheat?>>I did not cheat.>>Asha: But when we check his thesis, over 30% was plagiarized. Don’t you think you’re breaking the trust of your clients?>>I’m not, I’m using my knowledge and skills.>>Asha: Correces says he understood his thesis had been approved by Almeda. But now, he’s taken down his LinkedIn profile and is no longer listed as a therapist on the clinic’s website.>>Asha: Why is your profile removed from the website where you work?>>Well, things change, you know.>>Asha: So you’re no longer working there?>>No.>>Asha: When we check, the clinic confirms they terminated his contract. Does this professor have a fake degree?>>You did your post grad online?>>Yeah.>>Where did you do it? Here at Seneca?>>Asha: Who else is faking it? This is your Marketplace.>>Asha: The real deal on your Marketplace. We’ve spent months undercover investigating Canadians with bogus degrees. And now, we’re about to get some of our own.>>All right. Moment of truth.>>Let’s see what we have.>>Wow!>>So our degrees are here.>>They are. I have a PhD in Psychology from Almeda University.>>PhD in Psychology, GatesVille University.>>Asha: Take a look. We get our degrees. But that’s not all. We also get transcripts with a list of bogus courses we never took, attendance records. And your GPA, 3.92. Nicely done.>>And it was just too easy.>>Asha: And that name we used, check it out. That’s right. It’s Marketplace. Back on the case, we find others who have degrees just like ours.>>So I just found a professor at Seneca college in Toronto here.>>Asha: Dubravko Zgrablic has a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Almeda University. We have heard that school name before.>>He teaches computer applications and business applications. He’s also taught at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University too. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: Posing as potential students, our team meets up with him…>>Asha: ..to find out more about his so-called Masters from Almeda.>>Asha: He can’t remember where he got his degree from?>>Asha: 11 phone exams, never heard of that before.>>Asha: Now, this isn’t the first time an educator has been exposed. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: We travelled to Pittsburgh, Kansas, where a group of high school students made international headlines after they investigated their principal and her two fake degrees.>>A group of students had their doubts about their new principal.>>Their incoming principal resigned after their investigation into her credentials.>>Asha: The story went viral.>>When you started to dig deeper, what were you finding?>>A lot of discrepancies arose, even just a simple google search brought up articles that mentioned the university she attended may be a scam and that it possibly could be a diploma mill.>>Asha: The school they looked into, Corrlins University, it’s also on our list.>>We were calling the city in California where it was supposedly located and a city council official saying that that university had never even existed, helped piece that together.>>Asha: We tell them about the prof we’re investigating. He’s taught at several top Canadian universities and colleges. And he’s still teaching.>>The main concern for me, if I would be one of those students, what does that say about the degree I have from that university? What does it say about the validity because if the university has this fraudulent professor, who’s to say that there weren’t more?>>Asha: We ask professor Zgrablic repeatedly for an on-camera interview. He maintains his degree from Almeda is legitimate. And he did do 11 phone exams to complete his Masters. So why can’t we speak with you?>>Asha: You don’t want to speak to us on camera at all to talk about your Masters and why you attended this school that is linked to a diploma mill scheme?>>Asha: So we follow up with Seneca college. We’re hoping you’ll reconsider an interview to discuss this. But they won’t talk on camera either. They say they have processes in place to vet their employees credentials. And weeks after we contact Zgrablic, he removes Almeda University from his LinkedIn profile. Retired FBI agent Allen Ezell says that’s not good enough.>>What signal are they sending the other faculty members and their students? They must set the example. If they’re not going to vet their own people, who in the heck is? That’s 1,000% unacceptable. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: Where do all these fake degrees come from? The paper trail leads to Pakistan.>>Asha: This insider tells all. This is your Marketplace. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: Get more Marketplace. Sign up for our weekly newsletter at CBC.ca/Marketplace.>>Asha: The real deal on fake schools. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: We’ve uncovered more than 800 Canadians who could have fake degrees from hundreds of fake online schools. I’ve been noticing that some of the school’s websites look pretty similar. When we dig a little deeper, a pattern emerges.>>I’m on Baychester right now and just looking at a picture of the dean here. I’m looking at another school Regent, also a picture of the dean who has the same photo, same name and same write-up on both schools.>>Asha: Turns out, the faculty at some of these schools are just stock photos used on multiple websites. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: And many of those schools track back to one major company in Pakistan. Axact, the largest international diploma mill scheme out there.>>The magnitude will blow your mind, I mean, really. It makes a volcano look small. We’re talking probably grossing a billion dollars a year, 35 bank accounts in 19 countries.>>Asha: Axact denies any involvement in the scheme and tells us they don’t condone any alleged fraud by these fake schools. But we track down a man on the inside. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: A sales agent working out of this Axact office in Islamabad a number of years ago. He’s asked us to conceal his identity due to safety concerns.>>Asha: He was the first point of contact for many people buying their degrees. His pitch –>>Asha: He says he quit because he didn’t agree with the company’s practices. [ ♪♪ ]>>Asha: The crackdown begins in New York City, where one of the top Axact executives Umar Hamid is being sentenced here today. We’re going in to get the details. The judge spoke directly to Hamid saying there are real victims and they are your victims. In the end, he was sentenced to 21 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Then he’ll be deported back to Pakistan. He was also ordered to forfeit over $5 million for his role in the scheme. This conviction wasn’t enough to stop Axact. Fake schools are still up and running. But our story doesn’t end here. We will be following this in the months to come. [ ♪♪ ]>>Fasten your seat belts. Is your car dealership ripping you off?>>$1,200 service they were recommending, none of which was needed.>>High pressure sales.>>Felt like he was trying to scare me.>>Plus insider secrets.>>When you’re 100% commission, you don’t have a choice. You live or die by this customer that’s walking in.>>..why you’re recommending service that isn’t required on a vehicle.>>Auto repair rip-offs. You can’t afford to miss this ride. [ ♪♪ ]