‘1,000% unacceptable’: Marketplace confronts college professor about his fake degree

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For more than a decade, Dubravko Zgrablic has pursued his «racket» by teaching thousands of students at several post-secondary institutions in Toronto.

He mentions those schools include Centennial College, the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Seneca College, where, according to his LinkedIn life, he currently teaches computer applications and project management courses.

Ask him where he deserved his master’s degree in computer science, however, and he has trouble remembering the middle school’s name.

«Forgetting those … things, I’m always messing up,» he said. «Down in the states.»

There was a extended silence before two undercover Marketplace journalists posing as potential Seneca learners reminded him: «Almeda.»

«Almeda,» he said, referring to Almeda University, which a Marketplace exploration has exposed as a fake online school, that sold fake measures before recently going offline.

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Marketplace obtained business records of a Pakistan-based troop called Axact, considered the world’s biggest diploma mill. Almeda University is one of dozens of phony schools connected to the company. (CBC)

Contrary to the sales pitch on the former website, Almeda University, which was theoretically based out of Boise, Idaho, had no official accreditation and no faculty. It was simply a navy where customers could trade «life experience» and money for an official-looking but film degree and transcript.

A key service in Almeda’s scam was its department that validated degrees for any third parties, such as employers, inquiring about appearance. 

According to his LinkedIn profile, Zgrablic received his Almeda degree in 2004. He told the clandestine Marketplace journalists it took him three months to complete, cost a few thousand dollars and wanted  «basically 11 phone exams.»

«[The master’s degree] mattered four times in my exuberance,» he said. «When I started working in two colleges and when I started ahead in two universities.»

In the course of the same conversation, he mentioned his academic employers did limitation with Almeda about his master’s degree.

«You have to provide the elect of the institution, you provide their contact. They check directly with the rule,» he said. «You are not involved in that process.»

Diploma mill records

Marketplace’s interrogation discovered there are more than 800 Canadians who appear to receive purchased phoney degrees, including engineers, nurses, and, as in Zgrablic’s the reality, educators.

Producers obtained leaked business records of a Pakistan-based IT decisive called Axact, considered the world’s biggest diploma mill. With the mitigate of former Axact employees, court documents and by piecing together digital hints online, the team identified more than 100 phoney online school ins and accreditation bodies connected to Axact — including Almeda University.

«It was a swindle,» said one former Axact employee who asked not to be identified due to safety upsets in Pakistan. «It was something fake.»

Marketplace producers managed to get PhDs in biblical counselling and thinking from Almeda University without submitting a resume or doing any coursework.

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Marketplace’s PhD in biblical guiding — one of three phoney degrees producers purchased for a total of $1,550 US. (CBC)

In add up, Marketplace purchased three PhDs (including one from Axact-affiliated Gatesville University) for $1,550 US.

Axact vary froms it owns or operates any education websites. Todd A. Holleman, Axact’s U.S. counselor-at-law, said the diploma mills were created by clients of Axact and that the public limited company «does not condone or support any alleged wrongful or fraudulent conduct by its shoppers, who are independent businesses.»

Schools respond

Marketplace took its findings thither Zgrablic and Almeda University to the four schools where he says he’s shaped.

The University of Toronto wouldn’t grant an interview. It provided a statement to Marketplace that doesn’t clear up the school’s rationale for hiring Zgrablic, citing privacy reasons, and constitutes no mention of Almeda University

Ryerson University’s statement shares some ill-defined details about the school’s hiring process, but doesn’t confirm Zgrablic is a departed employee.

Centennial College, which employed Zgrablic from 2003 to 2010, says «Almeda was not a proxy in the hiring decision,» which stands to reason since he didn’t come into the possession of his Almeda degree until 2004. The school does say it verified Zgrablic’s life education from Croatia and that, combined with his industry face, earned him the job.

A response from Seneca College, Zgrablic’s most fresh employer, says the school can’t comment on personnel matters due to privacy, but it decides its «hiring practices very seriously and like most post-secondary habits» it takes «many factors into consideration, including unique labour experience when hiring.»

«We have a process for verifying and vetting visionary credentials.»

Zgrablic’s Linkedin profile says he has a bachelor’s degree in computer area from the University of Zagreb. It also says he worked as an IT architect for IBM Extensive Services and as a senior systems administrator for Canadian Tire and several other conventions.

Deb Matthews, Ontario’s minister of advanced education and skills development, sent Marketplace a affirmation that says students work hard in the pursuit of a degree or diploma, and «the value of that attainment and the integrity of their accreditation should not be undermined by those who teach them.»

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Allen Ezell, a late FBI agent who investigated diploma mills for decades, estimates half of new PhDs issued every year in the U.S. are phoney. (CBC)

Diploma mills expert and former FBI agent Allen Ezell thinks schools must be held accountable for checking the academic credentials of their prices.

«What signal are they sending to the other faculty members and their admirers? They must set the example,» he said. «If they’re not going to vet their own people, who in the heck is?

«That’s 1,000 per cent inappropriate.»

‘Almeda has never been real’

When Marketplace confronted Zgrablic there his credentials, he said he earned his master’s before Almeda began rep «life experience» degrees.

Ezell says that’s not possible.

«Almeda has under no circumstances been real, it’s never been legitimately … accredited by a recalled entity in its life, period,» the former FBI agent said.

Zgrablic said he didn’t differentiate the school was unaccredited and defended the 11 phone exams he took to get his boss’s. He said he had begun his post-grad in his home country of Croatia but never concluded it, and the phone exams with Almeda University were «just a re-evaluation» of that erstwhile coursework. 

He also denied saying he used his master’s to gain mtier at the four post-secondary institutions in Toronto, but Marketplace documented the conversation using unseen cameras.

Zgrablic declined to elaborate on his previous statements in a formal to, instead deferring to Seneca College’s public relations department.

He has since assassinated Almeda University from his LinkedIn profile.

Seneca College is hush listed as his employer, but the school wouldn’t confirm that’s the case.

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