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Five-year prison sentence confirmed for fake university chairman

A Templeton University sign in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Templeton University website)
A Templeton University sign in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Templeton University website)
A top local court confirmed a five-year prison sentence for a cyber-university chairman who sold fake college diplomas to around 200 people.

The Supreme Court on Sunday confirmed the lower courts’ five-year prison sentence for Kim Moon-kap on charges of fraud and violation of the Higher Education Act. Kim, 48, was sentenced to prison for issuing fake university degrees after establishing Templeton University as a cyber university and taking 1.38 billion won in tuition from around 200 students.

The students paid an average of 4 million won per semester.

From July 2015, Templeton University, which claims to be located in Charlotte, North Carolina, promoted itself as a university that was officially approved by the US Justice and Treasury departments, the state government and the regional education authority through its websites and online communities.

The fake university said its students in Korea could take online courses and offline classes at its main campus in the United States to obtain a college degree from a US institution. It also charged additional fees for early graduation certificates.

But it was found through investigation that Templeton University was only registered as a business entity with the California state government and the Internal Revenue Service in the state in May 2015.

The institution in question was never registered as an educational institution in Korea or the United States. Templeton University also didn’t run any offline classes in the United States nor did it receive any authorization for running classes with credits applicable for transfer to South Korean educational institutions.

According to South Korean law, if any party other than the government wants to establish a school, it requires official authorization from the Ministry of Education.

One of the victims of the fraud is former presidential candidate Kim Min-chan, who came 7th in the 2017 presidential election as an independent and was sued for violating the election law with a forged academic record. Investigators accepted Kim’s testimony that he did not know that his diplomas from Templeton University were not authentic and closed the probe internally.

The university chairman Kim’s defense appealed in the final court that he was planning to acquire a college in North Carolina and change its name to Templeton University. But the court ruled against him, citing the fact that the planned merger was never followed up until the legal proceedings started.

The court added that as the local college in North Carolina is also an unaccredited educational institution, the acquisition still wouldn’t change the fact that degrees and credits from Templeton University were to remain unapproved.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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