A RETIRED secondary school teacher, two private school teachers, an IT manager, and two businessmen were among 36 names from Singapore on a list of people exposed in the United States for buying fake diplomas and degrees.
The 9,612 names were taken from computers seized as part of Operation Gold Seal, a US Federal case that led to eight people pleading guilty to conspiracy to sell fake degrees from St Regis University and other fictional colleges based in rural Washington state.
The husband and wife ringleaders, Steven and Dixie Ellen Randock, have been sentenced to three years in prison.
The Washington-based newspaper, The Spokesman Review, ran the full list of names on its website on July 28. Buyers had paid the degree mill US$250 to US$5,400 (S$350 to S$7,500) for bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as doctorates.
The full report, which stated names, the degrees bought, and in some cases, the names of the fictional universities, can be found at http://www.spokesmanreview.com/data/diploma-mill/
The Straits Times contacted more than a dozen of those on the list and confirmed that six had bought the degrees. Four of the six had listed the degrees in their resumes.
Two admitted they had degrees from the listed universities but claimed they were unaware that these were degree mills.
The Education Ministry said it will investigate the case of the teacher to establish if any offence has been committed. But it said preliminary checks show that the teacher, who was recruited as a non-graduate teacher, had not used the 'degree' in question for placement.
MOE said the teacher is currently re-employed as a non-graduate contract adjunct teacher.
Businessman David Tan Leng Huat said he had merely enquired about a degree from St Regis University but had not paid anything.
Private school teacher David Nelson Samuel said he paid more than S$4,000 for a BA from St Regis University, but only found out later that it was unrecognised.
A Mr Joseph Ferguson was listed as a trainer at the Asian Life Skills Centre at North Bridge Road which runs courses for English Language teachers. His credentials include a BA (Business) and MA (Education) from St Lourdes University, one of the exposed degree mills.
But the centre's managing director Joseph Chee said the American had left the centre last year and expressed surprise at his fake credentials.
Dr Tan Tee Khoon, a Christian author and head of Knight Frank Property Network, said he is not the Tan Tee Khoon named for having bought a Master's in Divinity.
Dr Tan, who has a PhD in marketing from Templeton University, New York, said he was 'aggrieved' when he heard someone with his name was on the list.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Aug 8, 2008.