For more than a decade, Dubravko Zgrablic has pursued his “calling” by teaching thousands of students at several post-secondary institutions in Toronto.
He says those schools include Centennial College, the University of Toronto, Ryerson University and Seneca College, where, according to his LinkedIn profile, he currently teaches computer applications and project management courses.
Ask him where he earned his master’s degree in computer science, however, and he has trouble remembering the school’s name.
“Forgetting those … things, I’m always messing up,” he said. “Down in the states.”
There was a long silence before two undercover Marketplace journalists posing as potential Seneca students reminded him: “Almeda.”
“Almeda,” he said, referring to Almeda University, which a Marketplace investigation has exposed as a fake online school, that sold fake degrees before recently going offline.
Contrary to the sales pitch on the former website, Almeda University, which was supposedly based out of Boise, Idaho, had no official accreditation and no faculty. It was simply a service where customers could trade “life experience” and money for an official-looking but phoney degree and transcript.
A key service in Almeda’s scam was its department that verified degrees for any third parties, such as employers, inquiring about attendance.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Zgrablic received his Almeda degree in 2004. He told the undercover Marketplace journalists it took him three months to complete, cost a few thousand dollars and required “basically 11 phone exams.”
“[The master’s degree] mattered four times in my life,” he said. “When I started working in two colleges and when I started working in two universities.”
In the course of the same conversation, he mentioned his academic employers did check with Almeda about his master’s degree.
“You have to provide the name of the institution, you provide their contact. They check directly with the institution,” he said. “You are not involved in that process.”
Diploma mill records
Marketplace’s investigation discovered there are more than 800 Canadians who appear to have purchased phoney degrees, including engineers, nurses, and, as in Zgrablic’s case, educators.