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I recently found out that a professor in a graduate program forged diplomas and claimed to have a PhD, when in fact they do not. This professor is earning more more than other professors that actually have a PhD. The dean forbid this professor from teaching in his department as the academic writing was atrocious, and they teach in another department. This professor had help from others at the university in defrauding the state university.

Questions: Which law enforcement agency handles this? Based in USA Is a qui tam appropriate to file?
Which steps should be taken?

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It would depend on the state and the institution. Let's say this happened in Maryland: under MD. Education Code Ann. § 26-301,

A person may not falsely make, falsely alter, forge, counterfeit, or cause or procure to be falsely made, falsely altered, forged, or counterfeited, or willingly aid or assist in falsely making, falsely altering, forging, or counterfeiting a transcript, diploma, or grade report of an institution of postsecondary education.

Doing so is a misdemeanor. It might also be grounds for dismissal, but it is unlikely that dismissal is mandatory under the law. There was a case in Illinois a decade ago, where a professor of nursing was charged with theft of government property, in connection with a fraudulent scheme to get raises based on pursuing and obtaining a PhD. In that case, the relevant arm of the law (which investigated and pursued the case) was Cook County State's Attorney, since the accused was accused of committing a crime against the state. In this instance, the advanced degree was a fundamental consideration in giving a raise – there was a rule to the effect that one is entitled to a raise if to enroll in classes or receive an advanced degree. This is not necessarily the case for all professorial positions, but it might be applicable in the case you are considering.

Illinois also has a False Claims Act, and under 740 ILCS 175/4(b)

A person may bring a civil action for a violation of Section 3 for the person and for the State.

Your ability to file suit depends on whether that state has an analogous whistleblower law.

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  • While dismissal might not be required by law, I do think that the university has no other option than that. The PhD is explicitly the grounds for teaching at an university, so not having one means you should not have gotten the job as professor in the first place.
    – PMF
    May 12, 2022 at 8:39
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    As a question of fact, holding a PhD is not an explicit requirement for a professorial post in the US, though it might be so encoded in some institution. I personally know a number of counterexamples.
    – user6726
    May 12, 2022 at 14:29
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    In order to be a professor at a certain at the UNI where I attend, one must have a phd. This will be an embarrassment. Be sure to watch education news in the coming months
    – Lionella
    May 14, 2022 at 20:38

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