U. S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Washington
300 United States Courthouse 509/353-2767
Post Office Box 1494 FAX (509) 353-2766
Spokane, Washington 99210-1494
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney
Telephone No. (509) 353-2767
Thomas O. Rice, Criminal Chief
Telephone No. (509) 353-2767
OWNERS AND EMPLOYEES OF DIPLOMA MILL INDICTED
FOR CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT WIRE FRAUD, MAIL FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
Spokane – Today, James A. McDevitt, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a Federal Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Washington returned a three-count Indictment charging eight individuals with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. According to the 40-page Indictment, Dixie Ellen Randock, Steven Karl Randock, Sr., Blake Allan Carlson, Heidi Kae Lorhan, Amy Leann Hensley, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, and Kenneth Wade Pearson, using the internet, conspired to manufacture, print, and sell fraudulent academic products, i.e., high school diplomas, college and graduate-level degrees, and related documents to consumers throughout the world so those consumers could get hired or promoted in their jobs or obtain H1B Visas. Thousands of degrees were sold. The Indictment alleges that Colbert, Washington residents, Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. owned several diploma mills and related businesses, including “Saint Regis University,” Robertstown University,” “James Monroe University,” James
Monroe University High School,” and Trinity Christian School.” According to the Indictment, by accessing one of those websites and paying fees between $399 and $2,454, consumers could be “evaluated” for a degree by Heidi Kae Lorhan, a high school dropout, and Amy Leann Hensley. Alternatively, a consumer could access one of their websites and take a 125-question test, answer only twenty-five percent of the questions correctly, and be awarded a high school diploma. The degrees and related documents would then be printed and shipped to consumer throughout the world.
According to the Indictment, to make the degrees look official, Spokane businessman, Blake Allan Carlson, manufactured fraudulent rubber stamps and seals, and Spokane resident, Kenneth Wade Pearson, acted as the web server for several of the diploma mill websites. According to the Indictment, Mead, Washington resident, Roberta Lynn Markishtum, printed some of the fraudulent documents and falsely confirmed via telephone to employers and potential employers that the degrees purchased were valid.
As part of the scheme to defraud, the Indictment alleges that Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. also caused a fabricated website to be created, which posed as the official and legitimate government website of the Liberian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Indictment also alleges that Peoria, Arizona resident, Richard John Novak, worked as a “consultant” to process the fraudulent degrees sold to foreign consumers. The Indictment also alleges that a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, while acting in an undercover capacity as a retired Syrian military officer who wanted to quickly obtain an H1B Visa, and using the undercover name Mohammed Syed, was able to purchase from “James Monroe University” degrees in chemistry and environmental engineering.
Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. are also charged with conspiring to launder $1,026,874.80 as a result of the diploma mill scheme. The Indictment seeks forfeiture of the Randock’s property and other assets including their Colbert home, approximately $55,000 in U.S. currency and $480,000 in various bank accounts, and a 2001 Jaguar.
If convicted of the wire and mail fraud conspiracy, each defendant could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, three years of supervised release, the payment of restitution, and a $100 special penalty assessment. If convicted of the money laundering conspiracy, Dixie Ellen Randock and Steven Karl Randock, Sr. could be sentenced to up to twenty years in prison, a $500,000 fine or twice the amount of money laundered, five years of supervised release, and a special penalty assessment of $100.
The case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force led by the United States Secret Service, in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Department of Treasury, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, the Spokane Police Department, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington. The case is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, George J.C. Jacobs, III.
The United States Attorney’s Office in Spokane has established a 1-800 number if you believe that you were a victim of the fraud or can provide information to the investigators. The telephone number is 1-800-775-6357.
An Indictment provides notice to the individual of the crimes he/she is alleged to have committed. Each individual is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
U. S. Attorney's Office
Post Office Box 1494
Spokane, WA 99210
(509) 353-2766 Fax