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Pakistani man arrested in $140 mn diploma mill fraud in US

Fraudlent company Axact held itself out as one of the leading information technology providers

Press Trust of India  |  New York 

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

A 30-year-old Pakistani man has been arrested and charged by law enforcement authorities in New York for his role in a 140 million dollar school and college "diploma mill" run through a Pakistani company that was shut down by the country's law enforcement.

Umair Hamid of Karachi was arrested on December 19 and presented in federal court in Kentucky. He has been charged with wire and aggravated identity theft in connection with the worldwide "diploma mill" scheme that collected approximately $140 million from tens of thousands of consumers, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced.

Hamid and operated the massive education "diploma mill" through Axact company which has held itself out as one of the world's leading information technology providers.

Working as Axact's Assistant Vice President of Relations, Hamid and made misrepresentations to individuals across the world, including throughout the US in order to dupe these individuals into enrolling in supposed high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.

Consumers paid upfront fees to Hamid and his co-conspirators, believing that in return they would be enrolled in real educational courses and, eventually, receive legitimate degrees. Instead, after paying the upfront fees, consumers did not receive any legitimate instruction and were provided fake and worthless diplomas.

"Hamid allegedly took hefty upfront fees from young men and women seeking an education, leaving them with little more than useless pieces of paper," Bharara said.

In about May 2015, Axact was shut down by Pakistani law enforcement, and certain individuals associated with Axact were prosecuted in Pakistan.

Most recently, he travelled to the US in order to open a bank account that he has used to collect money from consumers he defrauded. The crackdown on Axact last year had come days after the New York Times had done an exhaustive investigative report on Axact 'Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions.'

Axact had promoted and claimed to have an affiliation with approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, which Axact advertised online to consumers as genuine schools.

Through Hamid and his co-conspirators, Axact falsely "accredited" purported colleges and other educational institutions by arranging to have diplomas from these phony educational institutions affixed with fake stamps supposedly bearing the seal and signature of the US Secretary of State, as well as various states and state agencies and federal and state officials.

While based in Pakistan, Hamid was involved in managing and operating online companies that falsely held themselves out to consumers over the Internet as educational institutions.

Hamid is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

First Published: Fri, December 23 2016. 13:30 IST