Arizona Online ‘High Schools’ Settle Charges They Issued Fake Diplomas

The operators of two online “high schools” have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges filed in the U. S. District Court of Arizona that they falsely claimed to be accredited schools but actually were little more than diploma mills that sold worthless pieces of paper.

The settlements resolve charges the FTC brought in February 2016 against Capitol Network Distance Learning Programs and Stepping Stonez Development, LLC, two separate diploma mills that used names like Capitol High School, Aberdeen Academy, West Madison Falls High School, Columbia Northern High School, and Heritage Western High School.

Under the terms of the settlements, the defendants are banned from marketing or selling any academic degree or certification programs. The orders also prohibit them from making misrepresentations about any product or service, including claims about the performance of any product or service, the use of testimonials, and accreditations or endorsements.

The FTC alleges that the defendants deceptively claimed that their online “high schools” were accredited, and that their diplomas would be accepted by employers, colleges and the armed forces. FTC alleges that in both cases, consumers who attempted to use these diplomas to get jobs, apply for college and even join the military found that their diplomas were not accepted.

The complaints named Capitol Network Distance Learning Programs, LLC, Capital Network Digital Licensing Programs, LLC, Veritas Sales, Inc., and their principals Nicholas Pollicino, Anthony Clavien, and Adam Pollicino, and Stepping Stonez Development, LLC, Intentional Growth, LLC, and their principal Stephen Remley. The settlements impose a $9.5 million judgment against Capitol Network and Nicholas Pollicino,  a $1 million against Veritas Sales, Clavien, and Adam Pollicino, and an $8.6 million judgement against Stepping Stonez, Intentional Growth, and Remley. After the defendants turn over virtually all of their available assets, the remainders of all three judgments will be suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay.

The FTC’s Diploma Mills webpage contains information for consumers on how to spot fake diploma mills and other resources for consumers trying to improve their education credentials

The Commission vote approving the Capitol Network settlements was 3-0.  The Commission vote approving the Stepping Stonez settlement was 3-0.  The Stepping Stonez settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on November 10, 2016, and was entered by the judge on November 30, 2016.  Both Capitol Network settlements were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on February 10, 2017.

The FTC appreciates the assistance provided in these cases by the Better Business Bureau of Central, Northern, and Western Arizona, GED Testing Service LLC, the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, and the American Heart Association.

1 Comment

  1. This story is downright heart wrenching. I thought our plethora of colleges that gave diplomas that were worth less than the paper they were printed on was appalling, but the idea that we have high schools that do the same is awful. I appreciate all the information in the article, but would very much like a follow up article on how they both received charters to begin with? Who votes yea, who voted nay? Did the leadership have political connections with anyone on the charter board or….??? Its hard to fathom a vulture education sector, where kids are taken advantage of to this extent. As most of your readers may know, I focus on TUSD, and have hope that it can be improved. Arizona always has lots of people who just don’t believe in public schools, and claim that charters are better. REALLY? And if you are going to tell me that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel, I will remind you that, actually, it DOES. The better analysis is that there are the occasional charters that ARE good, and they deserve credit for that. But the point remains: where was the oversight when these so-calledschools were trying to form?

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