This newsletter is sent to clients of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), as well as employers, Human Resources and Security professionals, and law firms who require information on pre-employment screening, safe hiring, the FCRA and legal compliance. If this was sent in error, you can be removed from this mailing by using the “remove” feature at the end of the newsletter.

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May 2004 Vol. 4, No. 5

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Newsletter and Legal Update

1. US Dept. of Education to Develop List of “Accredited Schools”

2. Operator of Diploma Mill Scam Sentenced to Federal Prison

3. Use of Low-Cost Internet Criminal Databases Challenged

4. ESR Writes the Book on Safe Hiring-Available This Summer

1. US Dept. of Education to Develop List of “Accredited Schools”

In February of this year, the United States Department of Education announced that it was moving toward developing a “positive list” of accredited institutions of higher education. This announcement was in response to a series of incidents of federal workers holding worthless credentials issued by “diploma mills.” The federal government became concerned about diploma mills when a senior director in the Department of Homeland Security was placed on administrative leave following allegations that her degrees came from Hamilton University, allegedly a diploma mill that operated out of a refurbished hotel in Evanston, Wyoming.

According to a memo issued in April, 2004 by the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there were other abuses as well, including a computer specialist who claimed both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computers obtained only four months apart, and a police officer who submitted his résumé online to a diploma mill and received a degree based upon life experiences. The OPM, in fact, announced that in May of 2004 it was conducting seminars for federal human resources officers on how to distinguish between accredited schools and diploma mills. It has been estimated that generating fake college and university diplomas is a $200 million dollar a year industry.

ESR clients, however, already have the benefit of a program that helps to guard against this type of abuse. ESR matches all educational verifications against a database of recognized accredited colleges and universities and also maintains a database of known “diploma mills” to help guard against fake credentials.

2. Operator of Diploma Mill Scam Sentenced to Federal Prison

In a related story, a con artist was sentenced to eight (8) months in federal prison in April, 2004 for running a diploma mill. Ronald Pellar (aka Ronald Dante) ran a university known as Columbia State University. According to a news release from the Department of Justice:

Pellar set up Columbia State University in 1996 at a business office in San Clemente. CSU falsely represented itself to be a government-approved university in Louisiana and it falsely claimed to have faculty and accreditation sufficient to confer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees by correspondence in as little as one month. Pellar created promotional materials, including a university catalog that falsely told prospective students that CSU had an administration composed of Ph.Ds and medical doctors and that it had received full accreditation from legitimate accreditation agencies. The catalog cover featured a photograph of a building that bore no relation to the fictitious CSU or its San Clemente office. The mailing address was in Metairie, Louisiana, but in reality that was only a mail forwarding service that simply resent all correspondence to CSU’s addresses in Southern California. The indictment alleges that, in November 1997, Pellar fled the U.S. and continued to direct the activities of CSU from Mexico through subordinates.

The indictment alleges that CSU took in more than $10 million from students around the country in tuition fees during the scheme. The indictment alleges that students around the country were defrauded because CSU gave them the impression that it was a legitimate academic institution, but in reality it was nothing more than a diploma mill.

For a Special Report on how employers can determine if a college or university is in fact accredited by a recognized accreditation organization in the United States, contact Jared Callahan at [email protected] or by calling 415-898-0044, ext. 240.

3. Use of Low-Cost Internet Criminal Databases Challenged

According to an article in the April 11, 2004 Chicago Tribune, a criminologist at the University of Maryland, an Associate Professor of Criminology, ran a test of an undisclosed online database service. According the article, Professor Bushway obtained the criminal records of 120 parolees in Virginia and submitted their names to a popular online background check company. According to the article, sixty (60) came back showing no criminal record at all, and many other reports were so jumbled that the offenses were tough to pick out. According to the same article, the Chicago Tribune also submitted the names and birth dates of 10 Illinois offenders to another site offering instant criminal checks. It only found one result and even on that one, failed to report another sex-related violation for the same person.

These news reports underscore the dangers of using cheap on-line do-it-yourself criminal databases. Although these databases do have value when used by a professional research firm as part of an overall background report, they are a secondary research tool only, and under no circumstances is a substitute for a hands-on search at the county level. These on-line so-called “national databases” are a hit or miss compilation of various state or local databases. These records do not come from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the FBI’s national criminal database. They are not accepted as reliable in the screening industry as a primary source of criminal records. These databases have numerous issues when it comes to completeness, accuracy, or timeliness. Many of the databases are merely statewide repositories where some counties either do not report their data, or report infrequently. In addition, not all states have a database that is available to employers. Because of the nature of databases, the appearance of a person’s name on a database is not an indication the person is criminal any more than the absence of a name shows they are not a criminal. Any positive match MUST be verified by reviewing the actual court records. Any lack of a match is not the same as a person being “cleared.” However, a database is a valuable back up tool in helping a screening firm cover a wider area and knowing where to search for more information.

4. ESR Writes the Book on Safe Hiring-Available This Summer

ESR is pleased to announce that its president, Les Rosen, has authored the first detailed book on safe hiring and pre-employment screening that will be available in bookstores this summer, The book is called, “The Complete Guide to Keeping Criminals, Imposters and Terrorists Out of The Workplace.” It is published by BRB Publications and is now available pre-publication on

According to the publisher, “The Safe Hiring Manual goes far beyond the typical hiring handbook. It is a comprehensive blueprint for developing a safe hiring program for employers, human resources, security professionals, private investigators, labor lawyers — anyone concerned about hiring safe and qualified workers. The Manual details how to exercise due diligence throughout the hiring process, significantly increasing an employer’s chance of avoiding the financial and legal nightmares of even one bad hiring decision. The Safe Hiring Manual provides a Safe Hiring Program that includes:

  • Effective use of applications, interviews and past employer checks as key hiring tools.
  • Verification of degrees and credentials, and how to legally obtain and use criminal records.
  • Legal compliance issues, including the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as well as EEOC, Patriot Act, Privacy, Sarbanes-Oxley, state law compliance, and other legal concerns.
  • In-depth pre-employment background screening and investigative techniques.
  • New information on how to identify terrorists and perform international background checks.
  • How to audit the effectiveness of your current hiring program.
  • All the why’s and how-to’s for implementing the necessary employment practices that will keep your business safe — and keep you out of court!

More information is available at

Speaking appearances by ESR President and Attorney at Law, Les Rosen:

November 4, 2004–Santa Rosa, CA “Practical Tips For Successful HR Management,” Lorman Seminars. See

October 6, 2004–Dallas, TX “Crimes, Criminals and Human Resources” HRSouthwest Annual Conference. See

September 29, 2004–Dallas, TX “Safe Hiring Audit-Implementing and Measuring Due Diligence.” ASIS International 2004 Seminar & Exhibits. See

September 2, 2004–Long Beach, CA “Safe Hiring Audit-Implementing and Measuring Due Diligence.” 2004 Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) Annual Conference. see

August 24, 2004–Santa Rosa, CA “How to Hire Winners!” Lorman Seminars. See

May 19, 2004–Sacramento, CA ” How to Avoid the Nightmare of a Bad Hire.” American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). See

May 18, 2004–San Rafael, CA “Ten Safe Hiring Tools Employers Can Use Today and Cost Nothing.” Marin HR Forum-noon

Employment Screening Resources (ESR)

1620 Grant Avenue, Suite 7

Novato, CA 94945


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