Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fake Diplomas Found at U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command


Breach of Trust: Fake Diplomas Found at U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command

WHNT NEWS 19's Investigation reveals AMCOM's Director of Readiness purchased bogus diploma

Wendy Halloran

WHNT NEWS 19 Chief Investigative Reporter

May 13, 2009


It's graduation season all across the country. Thousands of students spent years to get their bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.

However, many people have bought phony diplomas. In Part 1 of our Taking Action Investigation, WHNT NEWS 19 showed you how fake degrees have infiltrated the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army.

Now, our investigation reveals this breach of trust goes all the way to the top civilian ranks at Huntsville's Redstone Arsenal.

The fake degree is in the hand of a key essential leader at the U.S. Army's Aviation and Missile Command, AMCOM. The bogus diplomas are against policy, put a person's integrity in question, and make them a potential target for blackmail.

As Director of Readiness for the Army's Aviation and Missile Command, Chris Oleyte carries the weight of America's missile defense readiness on his shoulders. He's also carrying other baggage.

WHNT NEWS 19's Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran confronted him. "Did you buy a degree from that diploma mill?" we asked.

"Uh, nothing to talk about," Oleyte replied.

Oleyte has top secret clearance, and access to classified information about missile defense. He would probably rather you not know about this secret he's hidden.

"It's on your bio," we say. "Yeah," he replies. "So, I don't even understand why you're talking to me about it," Oleyte said.

Did the system promote him, despite his bogus degree? Does the Department of the Army care that he has a fake credential?

"You have an obligation to talk to us," we say. "No, I don't, you're on my property," Oleyte replies.

Oleyte's secret potentially compromises the integrity of AMCOM and certainly defrauds you, the taxpayer.

"Taxpayers pay your salary," WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran says. "You don't want to talk about a degree from a degree mill? You're a key essential leader, and that's from a diploma mill."

"I don't appreciate [this]," Oleyte says. "Put the camera down. Please, please the camera."

In 2001, Olyete's impressive government resume boasted a Bachelor's degree in Human Resource Management from Trinity College and University out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

"To be fair, in a description of Trinity College and University, it's something that lives in a metal box 'that big' that you could use to store cat food basically in, it's completely fake," said George Gollin, an expert on diploma mills. More from him shortly.

Oleyte's resume lists that he got that bachelor's degree in 2001. The next year, he got a big promotion, to Senior Command Representative in Korea... a promotion that moved him up from a GS 13 to a GS 14, and likely afforded him a sizeable increase in salary.

Oleyte had the authority over all AMCOM issues, personnel and equipment in that country and reported directly to the AMCOM commanding general in Korea.

By the government's standards, it's a very important position. That began Oleyte's rise through the chain of command. Two years later, he was reassigned to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville as the Deputy Director of Readiness. He was later promoted to Director of Readiness.

WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran further confronted Oleyte about his bogus degree and the position he holds.

"I don't list that as a degree," Oleyte said.

"But you did," we replied.

"It's way back when," he said.

"Yes, but it's still from a diploma mill," said Halloran.

The promotions process in the U.S. government is very stringent. A complex matrix is used to score applicants. Three screeners judge the applicants on eight criteria. Applicants earn points for everything from aviation or missile systems experience to supervisory experience and even higher education degrees.

When Olyete applied for that promotion in Korea, his initial score was 263. A Freedom of Information Act request shows how 6 points were shaved off from the scoring for that bogus bachelor's degree and his total score corrected. It also shows how Olyete fared against 34 other candidates for the Senior Command Representative position. Despite the reduction, his point total still ranked him third on the list and he still retained the promotion. Without a doubt, someone higher up knew about the bogus degree. Chris Olyete's only 4-year degree is the phony one he possesses from Trinity College and University.

The U.S. Army's policy clearly states an employee who intentionally lists bogus educational credentials on a resume or other form of application for merit promotion calls his trustworthiness and integrity into question. It goes on to say when the employee's current supervisors become aware, he or she will notify the AMCOM Security Intelligence Directorate and it will determine what if anything should be done regarding the employee's clearance and access to classified information.

It's all about trust. To WHNT NEWS 19's knowledge, Olyete's bosses swept it under the rug. Nothing was ever done about it.

How could we know? The U.S. Army at Redstone Arsenal has not answered many of our questions. At first, request after request for an interview was met with excuse after excuse.

But, in the waning hours before we went to air with this story, Redstone Public Affairs Specialist Dan O'Boyle was authorized to answer only a few questions we submitted in advance.

"Does AMCOM Commander General Jim Myles know about Chris Oleyte's fake degree from Trinity College and University?" we asked O'Boyle.

"We are aware of the allegations and we have convened a Commander's inquiry now, that's a group of senior key leaders who are looking at the facts surrounding these allegations and are charged with the responsibility to determine the truth and then come up with a course of action based upon the findings that come out of the inquiry board," said O'Boyle.

"On a government resume, he lists that degree. Are you aware of that?" WHNT NEWS 19 asked.

"We are conducting this inquiry and we'll make a course of action based upon the facts that come out as a result of our findings," said O'Boyle.

"Chris Oletye, the Director of Readiness for AMCOM, did he list the degree on his security clearance application?" we asked.

"We are currently working with Defense Security Services Personnel to obtain all the paperwork and documentation that surrounds these allegations and the circumstances and once we have that piece of the puzzle in place we'll be able to make a determination," O'Boyle replied.

This is a very serious matter, and WHNT NEWS 19 thinks you have a right to know answers to questions, for example, does this make Olyete a potential target for blackmail? Does it pose a threat to national security?

With few answers from Redstone Arsenal, we had to go elsewhere.

"So here we have someone in Missile Command who is responsible for very hi-tech, very important, very sensitive information who is a possessor of qualifications that are bogus," said George Gollin.

Gollin is an expert on diploma mills. He worked with federal prosecutors, going after the ringleaders of Saint Regis University, a diploma mill operated out of Spokane, Washington. Saint Regis sold fake degrees to nearly 10,000 people around the world.

Gollin is also a professor at the University of Illinois and a board member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. That is this country's standard when it comes to accrediting universities and colleges.

"What if the fellow has a mortgage, what if he's really not in a position to take a pay cut, have to move into a different position because his credentials are not legitimate -- it really does seem to me like someone in that position is very vulnerable to pressure when they really have to choose between giving up their ability to support their family to pay for their home and providing initially what seems like harmless information," said Gollin. "But really, once you provide harmless but classified information, then you've done something that's illegal and that can be used against you," he added.

As a matter of fact, Oleyte does have a sizeable mortgage. Records show his Madison home was worth more than $330,000 when he bought it in 2006. Oleyte's name is also on the mortgage for a condominium in Honolulu, Hawaii. It's worth $433,400.

Keep in mind that you, the taxpayer, are paying his salary. But there is more at stake than just taxpayer money.

"Do you think the blackmail issue is a very real threat?" WHNT NEWS 19 asks Retired Brigadier General David Grange.

"Those that have issues financially, those that have issue having to have some type of academic achievement or other awards things like this in order to raise their status and that, are subject to manipulation by enemy agents," said Grange.

Grange serves as the national security expert for CBS NEWS and CNN. He spoke with WHNT NEWS 19 via satellite from Chicago.

"Could this put our troops in harm's way?" WHNT NEWS 19's Wendy Halloran asked.

"Any time someone has accessibility to classified information and has a character flaw, the results could be putting our troops in harms way, absolutely," said Grange.

General Grange says this matter is so serious, there's really only one solution.

"It's disturbing that the individual would in fact do that, not all the checks and balances catch all these types of things, the individual admitted it, the honorable thing to do is to step down be removed from that command and move on, because it's not tolerated," said Grange.

WHNT NEWS 19 believes there are more top leaders at AMCOM installations worldwide with bogus degrees. The Department of the Army is investigating the names that we have turned over.

WHNT NEWS 19 is not saying that Oleyte is not qualified to hold the position he has. He may be qualified, but this is a breach of trust, a question of honor and integrity, and sets a bad example because it flies in the face of the Army's policies and values.

In Part 3 of our investigation, we show you imposter credentials in yet another layer of our military, a local defense contractor in a high position here in Huntsville. Watch Part 3 Thursday on WHNT NEWS 19 at 10:00.

Copyright © 2009, WHNT-TV

Army Responds To Soldiers Buying Fake Diplomas

WHNT NEWS 19 uncovers soldiers, defense contractors and civilians who bought fake diplomas in order to get promotions; Army responds

Wendy Halloran

WHNT NEWS 19 Chief Investigative Reporter

May 12, 2009


A WHNT NEWS 19 Taking Action Investigation reveals the use of counterfeit credentials in all levels of the military and missile defense, the core of Huntsville's community. This investigation has captured the attention of top leaders from Huntsville to Washington, D.C.

This breach of trust is costing you, the taxpayer, and it could put our nation's security at risk. Our investigation reveals that more than 200 soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and government contractors around the world bought fake degrees.

Our investigation started in October 2008 with retired Master Sergeant Albert Finley, Jr.

"I only inquired, no, I never bought nothing," said Finley.

Finley's military record testifies to a patriotic man, willing to put himself in harm's way for his country. His distinguished record shows he's done everything to be all he can be, from earning the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Global War On Terrorism Service Medal.

These campaign medals, decorations and awards speak volumes. Among the honor, there's another accolade Finley takes credit for: a master's degree in Sociology with a minor in Counseling from Saint Regis University.

His diploma looks official. His transcripts reflect he was an almost straight-A student. But there's one problem, it's all a lie.

The lie was good enough to fool the U.S. Army, until we brought it to their attention. Our investigation essentially shows when soldiers can't be all they can be, they buy it.

Finley told WHNT NEWS 19 he only inquired about buying a fake degree. We traveled to the nation's capitol for answers. The U.S. Army says that's not the case.

"Did Master Sergeant Albert Finley Junior, Retired, turn over a fake degree to the United States Army?" we asked of Sergeant Major Tom Gills.

"He did," said SGM Gills. "We've verified that and I have a copy of it right here for you."

SGM Gills is the Chief of Enlisted Promotions for the U.S. Army. The office is headquartered at the Army's Human Resources Command in northern Virginia.

The fake degree from now-defunct Saint Regis University cost Finley $731. It's one factor in his promotion from Sgt. First Class to Master Sergeant. The promotion meant a bump in pay for him. You've been footing the bill.

"You have a master's degree through Troy University out of Dothan, Alabama, so you know what it's like get the higher education -- the blood sweat and tears -- when you heard of Finley's case what ran across your mind? What entered your mind?" we asked SGM Gills.

"In a word, disgust," said SGM Gills.

"When I think of the hard work, and not just for myself, setting an example for our young soldiers to see what right looks like and to spend those nights and the weekends missing family events and all the other things that all of us do to achieve the degree had to go through, it's not easy of course," said SGM Gills.

"It's very worthwhile, so as you work to make that example for your subordinates and your peers hoping to inspire them, to have someone who would go and do something like this, it sickens me," he added.

"It just adds insult to injury that a senior NCO would take that, that route to go outside of what the Army authorizes as an accredited institution and pay money out of their own pocket again when the Army will pay for their tuition and books 100% to go and actually get the education," SGM Gills added.

The Army's promotions board approved it. However, Master Sergeant Albert Finley's far-from-genuine degree isn't the only fake that slipped through the cracks of the Army's screening process. There are a battalion of others who flew under the radar.

WHNT NEWS 19's Taking Action Investigation has uncovered Major Eliza Watson of Birmingham bought a fake bachelor's degree in Business.

The comment section on the Saint Regis University buyer's list reveals Major Watson took measures to make sure her secret stayed a secret.

Her post said "I am Captain in the Army Reserves and I need a degree to retain my commission; no transaction on e-mail."

Major Thurman Towry of Homewood also engaged in a covert operation, purchasing a total of eight degrees and certificates, including a bachelor's in Business Management, a master's in Management and a PhD in International Management Strategy.

Towry turn all three degrees over to the Army, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Taxpayers paid for his salary raise.

WHNT NEWS 19 has uncovered more than 200 soldiers, Department of the Army civilians and government contractors around the world who bought fake degrees.

"Each case, it is significant, it is egregious and it just smacks right at those core values that we live by," said SGM Gills.

The group who bought fake diplomas includes dozens fighting right now on the front lines. They submitted these degrees into their official military file for consideration for promotion.

"When you're in combat, you've got to trust that man on the right, that woman on the left and certainly that leader who's behind you or in front of you telling you this is the action we're gonna take, and as soon as you give that integrity away by doing something like this, you have now chipped away at a trust factor," said SGM Gills. "How many senior commanders can trust you again or how subordinates can trust you?"

With the Army's strict codes and strict conduct, how does this happen?

"One would never expect that a seasoned leader would do something like this, so you could see how they could slip through the cracks," said SGM Gills.

"There are some civilians and people who are critical of the Army, saying that the Human Resources Command doesn't do enough to stop these bogus degrees from slipping through the cracks. What would you say to people who feel that way?" WHNT NEWS 19 asked Gills.

"Now that this command is aware of it, at this time were going to educate the Human Resources Specialists throughout the Army," said SGM Gills. "We're going to send a message out to the commanders within the Army that same message."

We also spoke with retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange about our investigation.

"I think most of these cases are people getting these credentials in order to obtain a job a higher pay scale," said Grange.

Grange has three silver stars, two purple hearts and one real master's degree in public service from Western Kentucky University.

He serves as the military analyst for CBS and CNN, and spoke with WHNT NEWS 19 via satellite from Chicago.

"Does it concern you, or how concerned are you with fake academic credentials and people defrauding the United States Government?" we asked him.

"Because they're a government person, they belong to the public, in other words that this is an issue I think that the military will crack down on this immediately and weed out anyone that does have bogus credentials," said Grange. "It's not tolerated. I'm sure those that did it wittingly will be punished."

Since the start of WHNT NEWS 19's Taking Action Investigation, we have turned over 12 names of military members in Alabama who bought fake degrees from bona fide diploma mills.

The U.S. Army says it is taking the matter very seriously, conducting a review of all of their records to see if they turned over their fake degrees as part of the promotions process.

One is too many," said SGM Gills. "And each and every one we're going to identify we're going to turn it over to their commanders for appropriate action."

Gills also thanked us for the investigation.

"I just want to say God bless you for bringing this to the Army's attention, for me, at least, to find out about this at this scope or level so that we can take the action," said SGM Gills. "We couldn't do it if you hadn't have brought it to us, so that's the starting point of fixing any problem is knowing you have one."

The punishment for turning over a fake degree ranges from a general officer letter of reprimand, up to an Article 15, which is a non-judicial punishment that allows a commander to take rank, forfeiture of pay, restrict a soldier's activities to the barracks, all the way to a court martial.

If a soldier is court martialed, it becomes a matter of public record. However, because Retired Master Sergeant Albert Finley, Jr. was not court martialed, we'll never know what punishment he was given.

Our Taking Action Investigation is getting more results, too.

The U.S. Army is now auditing all of its records. It is revamping its Human Resource Command to better detect fake credentials, and it is also encouraging those who purchased fake degrees to step forward.

Those who don't come clean could face a court martial.

The Army is also launching an educational campaign that will be broadcast over military radio and television, on web sites, and in newspapers and other print publications.

Copyright © 2009, WHNT-TV

Danger of a Defense Contractor Having a Fake Degree

WHNT NEWS 19's Investigation reveals a defense contractor purchased phony degrees

Wendy Halloran

Chief Investigative Reporter

May 14, 2009

Huntsville, AL

All across Alabama, students are celebrating the satisfaction of graduating from college and that they've got their diploma in hand.

For most people, it's not easy to get a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree. It takes years of studying,, tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and endless stress from exams.

What does that diploma get you? The potential for a better profession, higher pay, pride and prestige.

WHNT NEWS 19 has exposed how people in high positions in the military and missile defense have purchased their degree without spending all the time, energy and money that you did.

Chief Investigative Reporter Wendy Halloran has revealed how some people tried to take a shortcut, paying a fraction of what it costs to go to school, and purchasing counterfeit credentials.

In Part 3 of this WHNT NEWS 19 Taking Action investigation we put a man who works for a defense contractor under the microscope.

Jim Samuelson is the Director of Contracts, Proposals and Pricing for ADT (Applied Data Trends).

His job is to get his company awarded contracts with the Department of Defense. He has security clearance on Redstone Arsenal, access to classified information about the software his company makes for the Warfighter and he claims to be an International Traffic in Arms Regulations Empowered Official.

He also teaches continuing education courses in government contracting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Wendy Halloran confronted Samuelson and asked him what university he got his bachelor's in business administration and his master's in business from.

"I really got to go. Please?" replied Samuelson. Halloran then asked, "Does your employer know where it's from?" "Yes, ma'am they do," he said. "And, what university is that sir?" "Please turn that off, turn it off," Samuelson said.

Many people aspire to achieve an MBA. But, Samuelson took a shortcut by buying one from Saint Regis University, a diploma mill. There were no classes and no course work. All it took was cash.

"When I did it, I was requested to fill out enormous amounts of paperwork to justify experience," claimed Samuelson.

The Saint Regis buyer's list we obtained shows he paid $2,917 for the two higher education degrees. Saint Regis University concocted credentials that looked legitimate, but aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Halloran asked him if he turned the degrees over to get his job at ADT. Samuelson replied, "No ma'am. I did not."

Samuelson's profile on the social networking site, Facebook, provided a wealth of information about his background. He proudly posted details about his decade in the United States Marine Corps, several tours of duty including assignments in Vietnam. He listed his more than 20 years of work experience and his own government consulting business. And, he showcased his higher ed degrees - a bachelor's supposedly earned in 2002 and a master's two years later.

He posted much detail, but had one glaring omission.

Halloran stated, "Your resume currently lists Regis University." "Then I must have had something messed up," replied Samuelson.

The posting on his Facebook profile indicates his degrees are from Regis University, a legitimate University in Denver, Colorado.

Halloran asked, "Did you drop the 'Saint' on there? Because Regis University has no record of you, sir." Samuelson sighed deeply.

"We checked with Regis University. The Jesuit University was quick to clarify that it had no record of this James Samuelson attending its institution," said Halloran.

What's the harm, you wonder?

"Do you have security clearance onto Redstone Arsenal?" Halloran asked. "Yes, ma'am I do," he replied.

A powerful position, access to classified information and a secret that could be used against him.

"So, I really worry about secrets getting out," stated George Gollin. Gollin is an expert on diploma mills. He worked with the federal government to prosecute the leaders of Saint Regis University.

Gollin said, "We have holes in our ability to keep information secure that this opens up. So here we have a contractor responsible for handling very sensitive information. Information that, if it gets out, puts our armed forces at risk. The person is susceptible to pressure to blackmail to being told that he needs to provide some information or else they're going to nail him. They'll make him lose his job and this is a person in a position of great responsibility. It's really, really frightening."

But, don't just take Gollin's word for it.

"Any corrupt individual would be harmful to the defense of the United States of America, whether it would be this issue or other issues," said Retired Brigadier General David Grange.

Grange spent nearly three decades serving our country. Now, he's a national security analyst for CBS and CNN. He spoke to Wendy Halloran from Chicago.

Halloran asked Grange, "Could this put our troops in harms way?" Grange said, "Anytime someone has accessibility to classified information and has a character flaw the results could be putting our troops in harms way. Absolutely."

Grange said the potential for blackmail is a reality, "Depending on the level of security clearance they have, that would be the level of information they could obtain and give to a foreign agent."

Samuelson's Facebook profile indicates he got the job at ADT in June of 2003. Remember, he got that bogus bachelor's in business in 2002 and the phony MBA in 2004.

Halloran asked Samuelson again, "Does your employer know about these degrees?"

He replied, "I'm not. No, the only people who would know about it are thanks to you, the whole city."

ADT is a multi-million dollar defense contractor. We requested an interview with ADT's CEO about this matter. We even provided a set of questions in advance. Instead, ADT's CEO Derrick Copeland sent us a statement that said ADT is aware of the WHNT NEWS 19 investigative report. It went on to say "ADT takes seriously such matters and is currently assessing the facts of the situation to determine what action by ADT, if any, is warranted."

A college degree isn't a requirement for a lot of jobs posted at ADT. Samuelson said he didn't use the degree to get the job and now worries it could cost him dearly.

Halloran said, "I'm giving you the chance to tell me exactly what happened here." Samuelson replied, "What you're doing for a living could cost me my living."

With so much at stake and plenty of professional experience, the nagging question remains why?

"Let me ask you why you would get these types of credentials after your years in the service in the Marine Corps. Then, all of a sudden you wind up with a bachelor's and a master's in business administration and government contracting. Is it the pressure to get a job? What prompted you to do it?" asked Halloran. "To be a 100 percent honest, what prompted me to get it was that my daughter was about to graduate from college and I have dealt with years of being highly experienced and not having a degree," said Samuelson.

He went on to say, "There's some discussion that's going to go on. They're going to say 'how could somebody who does what he does be that dumb?' But, you know sometimes all of us do things that are not real bright."

Samuelson said he was taken advantage of, scammed by Saint Regis University. His attorney told WHNT NEWS 19 that Samuelson thought Saint Regis was legitimate and that he knew nothing of its accreditation status when he applied for the degree online. Samuelson also told us he's trying to get his degree the right way and he is currently enrolled at the University of Phoenix, which is an accredited institution.

Samuelson and his lawyer stress that he never got a job or promotion because of the degree and he never represented the degree to be anything it was not. Samuelson's lawyer says he never received personal financial gain as a result of the degree certificate, and, in fact, the attorney said Samuelson "has simply lost money."

A college degree is not required for the continuing education courses that Samuelson teaches at UA Huntsville. He is not a faculty member at the school and the people who take his class do not receive academic credit.

WHNT NEWS 19 is working on several more angles to this investigation, including one that will air Wednesday, May 20th on WHNT NEWS 19 at 10:00 p.m. that addresses what's being done to crack down on people who purchase phony degrees.

Copyright © 2009, WHNT-TV