The executive of a Pakistani company Axact was charged in a US federal court on Wednesday for his part in an alleged $140 million “fake diploma mill” scheme, the latest step in a global crackdown touched off by arrests in Pakistan last year.
Umair Hamid, 30, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with a scam that impacted tens of thousands of consumers.
Hamid, an executive at software firm Axact, was arrested on Monday and presented in federal court in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky on Tuesday, according to a statement by Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Hamid’s lawyer could not be immediately identified. An email sent to Axact seeking comment bounced back.
Pakistan had asked US authorities last year to help it investigate Axact, which had been suspected of earning millions of dollars from the sale of bogus university degrees online.
Hamid resumed selling fake diplomas, duping US consumers into paying upfront fees to enrol in fake high schools and colleges even after Pakistani authorities shut Axact down in May 2015, according to Bharara’s statement.
“As alleged, while promising the rewards of a higher education, Umair Hamid was actually just peddling diplomas and certifications from fake schools. 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, according to a press release by the US Department of Justice.
‘Fake diploma’ scam
HAMID, going by the aliases “Shah Khan” and the “Shah,” along with others operated an education “diploma mill” through Axact, the press release stated. Working on behalf of Axact, Hamid and others duped individuals across the world, including throughout the United States and in the Southern District of New York, into enrolling in supposed high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.
Consumers were asked for upfront fees in return for legitimate degrees. After paying the upfront fees, however, consumers did not receive any legitimate instruction and were provided fake and worthless diplomas.
Hamid’s role in the Axact scheme
Hamid served as Axact’s “Assistant Vice President of International Relations.” According to the Justice Department’s release, he was involved in managing and operating online companies that falsely posed to consumers as legitimate educational institutions. Hamid allegedly made various false and fraudulent representations to consumers in order to sell fake diplomas.