Umair Hamid, a vice president of Axact, has been sentenced to 21 months in prison in the United States for his role in an international diploma mill scheme operated through the company, announced Joon H. Kim, the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, on Monday.
In addition to the prison term, Hamid, 31, from Karachi, was ordered to forfeit $5,303,020. He had pleaded guilty on April 6, 2017 to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Hamid had entered the guilty plea before US District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who imposed the sentence, said a press release issued from the office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“Umair Hamid and Axact operated a massive diploma mill that preyed on consumers who thought their tuition would pay for a college education," said Joon H. Kim. "Instead, Hamid provided victims with worthless fake diplomas. Defendants like Hamid who profit from fake schools face very real penalties, including prison time.”
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in related court proceedings, Hamid had "helped run a massive diploma mill through his employer, Axact, which has held itself out as one of the world’s leading information technology providers."
"Hamid and his co-conspirators deceived individuals across the world, including throughout the US, into enrolling in supposed high schools, colleges, and universities. Consumers paid upfront fees, believing that in return they would be enrolled in real educational courses and, eventually, receive legitimate degrees. Instead, consumers received no instruction and worthless diplomas," said the notice by the US Justice Department, adding that Hamid, who served most recently as Axact’s Assistant Vice President of International Relations, helped the company conduct the fraud in the US, among other locations.
“As a result of this scheme, from in or about 2006, through in or about May 2015 when authorities in Pakistan shut down Axact, Axact collected at least $140 million through US based bank accounts from tens of thousands of individuals around the world,” reads the indictment as it describes the scheme in considerable detail.
Axact came into the limelight in 2015 when a New York Times report titled "Fake Diplomas, Real Cash: Pakistani Company Axact Reaps Millions" outlined how the "secretive Pakistani software company" had allegedly earned millions of dollars from scams involving fake degrees, non-existent online universities and manipulation of customers.
According to the report, Axact had created a series of fake websites involving “professors” and students who it said were in fact paid actors.