Jay Alpert, a former Bergen County Sheriff and a member of Mensa (an organization for people with high IQ test results), was recently suspended without pay after a background check revealed he claimed to have two degrees from a notorious degree mill. The legitimacy of his degrees was brought to light when he sought out a promotion to acting police captain with the New York and New Jersey Port Authority.
Alpert was an undersheriff when he earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from LaSalle University in 1996 after first enrolling in 1995. In 1997, the school was raided by the FBI and subsequently shut down. In fact, the school’s president and several officials were imprisoned on various charges of fraud. Allen Ezell, a retired FBI agent responsible for leading the agency’s education fraud related investigations was very familiar with the school and described LaSalle University as “a classic diploma mill” during the time Alpert attended. After the school was raided, the FBI notified 15,000 of its “graduates” of the alleged fraud and returned $10 million it recovered during the investigation.
Alpert maintains he was unaware LaSalle was a degree mill and believes he did the schoolwork legitimately. His attorney, Sam Davis, said Alpert does not remember being notified by the FBI regarding fraudulent activity or being offered any reimbursement for his tuition. Mr. Davis continued to deny allegations, stating, “There was no indication this facility was a sham, nor was it a sham. It may have let its standards decline at another time, but that certainly wasn’t the case with Mr. Alpert.” Also of note, several other peace officers in the Bergen, New Jersey area have received diplomas from LaSalle and even recommended the institution to Alpert, which probably made the school even more appealing.
However, Ezell noted there were several indicators that should have tipped off Alpert the school wasn’t legitimate, especially considering his profession. For instance, degree mills typically have a very small faculty consisting of only two or three staff members graded papers for several thousand students (LaSalle employees revealed during the FBI investigation that they actually graded papers based on weight; the heavier the student’s paper weighed, the better the degree received). Furthermore, Alpert received “waivers” for some courses. A waiver at such a facility usually consists of paying an additional fee and providing a measure of your “life experience” to meet the course’s requirements, drastically cutting down the effort involved in completing the course.
While his attorney stated Alpert is not guilty of misrepresenting anything, had he vetted LaSalle before paying his tuition, he probably would not be facing the likely loss of his job. Quite surprising behavior coming from a member of Mensa, the one fact Port Authority officials joked they could indeed prove.