Umair Hamid of Karachi was arrested on December 19 and presented in federal court in Kentucky. He has been charged with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with the worldwide "diploma mill" scheme that collected approximately USD 140 million from tens of thousands of consumers, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced.
Mr Hamid and others operated the massive education "diploma mill" through Axact company which has held itself out as one of the world's leading information technology providers.
Working as Axact's Assistant Vice President of International Relations, Mr Hamid and others made misrepresentations to individuals across the world, including throughout the US in order to dupe these individuals into enrolling in supposed high schools, colleges, and other educational institutions.
Consumers paid upfront fees to Mr Hamid and his co-conspirators, believing that in return they would be enrolled in real educational courses and, eventually, receive legitimate degrees. Instead, after paying the upfront fees, consumers did not receive any legitimate instruction and were provided fake and worthless diplomas.
"Hamid allegedly took hefty upfront fees from young men and women seeking an education, leaving them with little more than useless pieces of paper," Mr Bharara said.
In about May 2015, Axact was shut down by Pakistani law enforcement, and certain individuals associated with Axact were prosecuted in Pakistan.
Axact had promoted and claimed to have an affiliation with approximately 350 fictitious high schools and universities, which Axact advertised online to consumers as genuine schools.
Through Mr Hamid and his co-conspirators, Axact falsely "accredited" purported colleges and other educational institutions by arranging to have diplomas from these phony educational institutions affixed with fake stamps supposedly bearing the seal and signature of the US Secretary of State, as well as various states and state agencies and federal and state officials.
While based in Pakistan, Mr Hamid was involved in managing and operating online companies that falsely held themselves out to consumers over the Internet as educational institutions.
Mr Hamid is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.