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William Tiller was hired by the city of Encinitas, just north of San Diego, in 1996, fresh out of the Marine Corps, to coordinate preparations for Y2K at a salary of $97,000 a year.
Tiller certainly looked well qualified for the position; he boasted not only a bachelor’s and master’s degree, but also two doctorate degrees.
There was just one problem, city officials later learned. Tiller’s resume turned out to be a complete fabrication.
Though Tiller has used different resumes, each has proven to be false. He claimed to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s in information systems from Strayer University. He also claimed to have a doctorate in computer science from La Salle University as well as a doctorate in systems engineering from Columbia State University.
He picked up one doctorate in a month for a cost of about $3,000. No time in class. No thesis. It was so easy that he didn’t stop with one fake degree, he bought another, and then he faked degrees from a real school.
Strayer University is an accredited university with 12 campuses on the East Coast and headquarters in Virginia. Officials there confirmed that Tiller attended classes for a short time, but never came close to achieving any type of degree.
La Salle University and Columbia State University are well-known diploma mills. Anyone, for a fee, can obtain any degree their heart desires. The degrees are supposedly awarded based on life experience and correspondence work.
Tiller was hired by the city and given the responsibility for making their computer systems Y2K compliant. The status of that effort is now in question. He was also in charge of the city’s security system. Tiller was forced to resign his $97,000 a year position last week when it became known that he had falsified his education.
Thousands of other government employees at all levels are said to have used phony degrees to obtain their positions.
“He would have been OK if he admitted the degrees were fake. He insisted that he believed the degrees were real. It was the deception that got him canned, because those degrees were not required,” a city employee told WorldNetDaily by phone. She expressed concern about the Y2K program in the city and worry over the lack of oversight. She gave her name but did not wish to be identified because all employees were told not to speak to the press.
Tiller and Interim City Manager Robert Acker did not return calls from WorldNetDaily.
The real Columbia University is in New York City and is fully accredited. Columbia State University is a diploma mill in Louisiana, which is said to be accredited by a non-existent international organization. It is run by Ronald Pellar, a fugitive. He fled the country in 1998 just before his conviction related to another school. He operates Columbia from his yacht on the coast of Mexico, according to prosecutors who would love to get their hands on him.
The real La Salle University is a Catholic college outside Philadelphia. The diploma mill version is in Louisiana, where lax laws and loopholes make it a haven for such unaccredited schools.
The founder of La Salle, Thomas Kirk, is now in prison thanks to testimony from his ex-wife. Kirk is a self-proclaimed minister who awarded himself a Ph.D. and J.D.
Sales materials and a video from La Salle and Columbia boasted of graduates in high government and commercial positions. That is the one claim the bogus schools made that has proven to be true.
Despite the loopholes in state law, investigators from the Louisiana attorney general’s office, along with federal investigators continue to investigate the lucrative scam. One investigator estimated that La Salle has issued 40,000 or more diplomas, with the majority going to government employees.
More than a dozen diploma mills have set up business in Louisiana because of the lenient laws there, according to a prosecutor in the office of Attorney General Richard Ieyoub. He says his office is investigating them all.
Federal investigators say there are thousands of offenders at the federal level, and an untold number at local government levels who use phony degrees to get their jobs and to qualify for higher salaries. Diplomas from bogus colleges and universities can be found on the walls and resumes of employees in the Department of Justice, congressional staff, U.S. Customs, the Department of Defense, NASA, and even the Department of Education. The list includes virtually every government agency.
Many government bureaucracies require advanced degrees as a means to determine who gets higher pay and promotions. The word got around on how to get what was needed quickly and efficiently, resulting in many government employees seeking out diploma mills.
Federal prosecutors who went after La Salle and Columbia were not looking into fraud committed by “graduates.” They have also not yet determined whether government funds were used to pay for the degrees.
“They know they got a fake degree, and they continued the fraud by holding it up as legitimate. You’d be amazed at how many actually display the thing on their office wall,” said one investigator who did not want to be identified because of on-going investigations.
Despite the fact that records from La Salle were seized containing the identification of federal employees who have the fake degrees, no government agency has yet requested copies of the records for review. The investigator was not surprised and said his office is only going after the school owners and not the degree recipients “for now,” he said.
Are there others like Tiller with responsibilities for Y2K preparations in government positions? No one interviewed by WorldNetDaily knew the answer, but many have computer-related degrees so there is a strong likelihood that there are some.
The many documents, letters, and records seized from La Salle reveal that the vast majority of their “graduates” are in the military and other government positions at all levels, including congressional and White House staff.
There is no government oversight to determine the validity of claims by job applicants or those seeking promotions. Despite the mountain of evidence that thousands of government workers are not as qualified as they claim, no steps have been taken to investigate the extent of the problem, prevent it from continuing, or take action against those who have defrauded the public taxpayers.
Despite the efforts of prosecutors, both La Salle and Columbia continue to operate. There are many unaccredited schools that will provide a diploma for little or no effort, and a large sum of cash. The ones most commonly used by government employees are said to include:
- Columbia State University, Louisiana
La Salle University, Louisiana
Chadwick University, Alabama
American State University, Hawaii
American International University, Alabama
Columbus University, Louisiana
Monticello University, Kansas
Frederick Taylor University, California
Pacific Western University, Hawaii
City University, California
Kennedy Western University, Hawaii
Trinity University, Great Britain
University of San Moritz, Great Britain
“A diploma mill is defined as an institution offering post-secondary degrees, which claims an unrecognized accreditation, or makes materially false claims as to the acceptance of their degrees,” according to Dr. John Bear, author of books on distance learning. Dr. Bear’s website confirmed that the schools on the list are diploma mills.