The National Fraud Squad announced Tuesday that they had nabbed a known criminal who, even as an indictment against him for a previous offense was being finalized, found the time to run a scam selling phony diplomas over the Internet.
In a joint investigation conducted by the computer crimes unit together with the investigative unit of the Income Tax Authority, a Jerusalem resident was arrested as a lead suspect who allegedly ran an "international business" selling forged academic certificates and degrees through Web sites that claimed to represent overseas universities.
Police believe that the sale of the fake documents was carried out in the suspect's Jerusalem office, but added that they think others conducted the sales from their houses over the Internet.
The process was an example of the wonders of the Internet put to criminal use. According to police, suspects allegedly set up a Web site that claimed to represent a university that did not actually exist. Afterwards, the suspects would advertise their "academic institution" through spam - unsolicited e-mails - and banners on other Web sites. When contacted by potential "students," the suspects would reply either by e-mail or telephone.
After luring the would-be purchasers into their snare, the suspects would then allegedly quote a price for the service, including a detailed explanation of how the payment plan would work. After paying, the "students" would receive a package in the mail containing transcripts, a diploma and a letter from the "university" confirming that the student did, in fact, complete their studies at the institution.
Police said that if a would-be employer questioned the veracity of the degree, they would be sent a document from the main suspect's office that allegedly was from the "university," confirming that the "student" was in fact a proud alumnus.
The investigation was made public Monday after detectives raided a number of locations including offices and houses in Jerusalem, seizing equipment suspected of being used in the scam. Computers, an Internet server and even false diplomas were seized by police, who said the evidence was sufficient to indict - and even convict - the suspects.
Police emphasized that this was the second time the lead suspect had been arrested by the tax authorities. Two years ago, the suspect was arrested and investigated for similar offenses, and the Jerusalem District Attorney's office reported Tuesday that they expected to deliver an indictment for the previous offense in the coming days.
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