PHILADELPHIA — A Connecticut man pleaded guilty Thursday to mail fraud charges in connection with the operation of a number of fraudulent diploma mills. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) the FBI, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
James Enowitch, 48, of Cromwell, Conn., pleaded guilty to selling $5 million worth of fake degrees throughout the world from 2003 and 2012. He profited more than $700,000 from this fraudulent scheme.
According to court documents, as early as 2003, Enowitch began operating a diploma mill, through which he advertised and sold diplomas for a fee, requiring no course work for the degrees. Enowitch and his alleged co-schemer ultimately operated at least seven different websites, through which they sold fraudulent degrees in the name of Redding University, Suffield University, Glendale University, Greenwood University, and Bryson University. Those purported universities were actually diploma mills; they had no faculty, offered no academic curricula or services, required no course or class work, and were not recognized by the United States Department of Education.
Part of the scheme to which Enowitch pleaded guilty was a fraudulent accrediting body, called the "National Distance Learning Accreditation Council" ("NDLAC"), used to falsely claim that the diploma mills were "nationally accredited."
Enowitch admitted that he and others created phony transcripts for courses never taken by the purchaser; allowed purchasers to create their own transcripts and backdate degrees; and provided fraudulent verification services to back up the fake degrees, in case an employer or other party sought verification. Degree packages ranged in price from $475 to $550 for associates, bachelors, masters, and doctoral-level degrees, with a "multi-degree discount" for buying more than one. For an additional fee, purchasers could also allegedly select grades for the phony courses included in their transcripts.
Enowitch faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and an order of forfeiture. He is scheduled to be sentenced October 15.