Academic Fraud, Legal and Political Power

Table of Contents

Part I: Latest News on academic fraud

Case summaries

Part II: Improving Global Education

Part I

Latest news on academic fraud: University-level

Source: Texas Supreme Court 

Court cases: Hartzell v. S.O., consolidated for oral argument with Trauth v. K.E.

Case number: 20-0811 consolidated for oral argument with 20-0812

Set for oral argument: September 20, 2022

Case Summaries

“These cases address whether public universities can revoke degrees of former students. In Hartzell, S.O. received a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. In 2012, UT initiated an investigation into whether S.O. engaged in scientific misconduct and academic dishonesty in connection with her doctoral research. After determining S.O. violated its academic standards, UT informed S.O. it intended to revoke her PhD. S.O. filed this suit, seeking declaratory relief that UT could not revoke her degree. UT filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting sovereign immunity and urging that S.O.’s claims were not yet ripe because it has not revoked S.O.’s degree. In response, S.O. moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied UT’s plea but granted S.O.’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that UT lacks authority to revoke S.O.’s degree and thus acted ultra vires in attempting to do so. The court of appeals affirmed.

In Trauth, K.E. graduated from Texas State University with her PhD in 2011. K.E.’s former faculty advisor later raised concerns about K.E.’s university data collection related to her dissertation. After an administrative investigation, Texas State found that K.E. engaged in academic misconduct and revoked her PhD. K.E. filed suit, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief to restore her PhD. In the trial court, Texas State filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting sovereign immunity because Texas State had the authority to revoke K.E.’s degree and arguing that the relief she sought was retrospective, and thus barred by sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the plea, and Texas State appealed. The court of appeals affirmed.

Both universities petitioned this court, arguing that public universities have the authority to revoke degrees. UT also argues that S.O.’s claims are not ripe, and Texas State urges that K.E.’s remedy is retrospective and barred by sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court has granted review and consolidated these cases for argument.”  

Comments regarding ethics: Since the legitimate universities maintain the authority to grant people degrees based on fulfilling hundreds of requirements over the course of years, they must also maintain the authority to revoke these degrees based on evidence and decisions that are made with attention to impartiality and agreements between evaluators.  Disallowing universities to make such decisions would mean that universities cannot make mistakes and also fix them, atoning for wrongs, such as academic fraud.  For the sake of ethics and battling systemic corruption, it is important that universities retain the right (also through an appeal to the ombudsman) to revoke degrees, such as doctorates. 

Why did the University of Texas inform the woman that her doctorate would be rescinded?  Does this not give her an extra chance to prevent the justified loss of the doctorate, as its loss is justified by the university’s evaluation committee and their decision for the removal?  Considering that these women are likelier to hold positions as professors at universities or other positions requiring doctorates, others have less job opportunities because of their misconduct. 

As we shall see in Part II, there are many others that have job opportunities in “gray market businesses,” which challenge the distinction made between what is legal and what is illegal business activity.  

Part II

Improving Global Education:

Diminishing Systematic Contract Cheating Via Cyber Pseud-Epigraphy

Synopsis: A most important aspect of education at both levels of higher and secondary education is “homework,” which assumes the forms of studying, researching, writing, reciting etc. During the last twenty-five years, opportunities have greatly developed for students in higher education to be allowed to shift much of their academic work from testing, class presentations and participation to merely “homework,” which completes all requirements for “asynchronous online courses.” The latter transitions of students from being “physically present” inside classrooms to being “virtually present” intermittently online have increased the frequency of “systematic cheating” (See Fig. 1). Systematic cheating and profit schemes develop via processes illustrated in Fig. 1. Online essay mills’ have developed professionally with customer service representatives and experienced writers who make it exceedingly difficult for teachers to detect cheating.  

Fig. 1 Academic Fraud and Gray Market Business Activity


Good speech is more hidden than the emerald, but it may be found with maidservants at the grindstones… (It may be that) it is fraud that gains riches, (but) the strength of justice (or truth) is that it lasts, and a man may say: ‘it is the property of my father.’”

Maxims of Ptah-Hotep ~2500 BCE

With these words from ancient wisdom, welcome.  There are four main learning objectives to this article meant for informing the public about the interconnections of business, institutions of higher learning, misconduct, fraud and the legal and international political implications.  

Pritchard, James. (1969). Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament. 3rd Ed. Translator John A. Wilson. Princeton University Press. Also in: Brant, W. (2012). Critique of Sarcastic Reason. Suedwest Deutsch Verlag fur Hochschulschriften. 

Learning Objectives

(1) Why forms of homework and false authorship lead increasingly to illegitimate profit-making schemes that misallocate funds away from education systems.

(2) How and why ideas, illustrations, pictures, programs and writings are being systematically sold for profit by anonymous business owners of online essay mills.

(3) Why businesses creating false authorship in the field of journalism and politics shape our mass media and political systems.

(4) What the recent legal issues are.

(5) Strategies to greatly reduce systematic contract cheating via online ghost authorship and improve the global education system. 

What is homework in relation to academic fraud?

Why are forms of homework and false authorship leading increasingly to illegitimate (or “alegal”) profit-making schemes that misallocate funds away from education systems?

Alegal behaviors, according to Lindahl (2008, 117), are “acts that challenge the very distinction between legality and illegality.” Lindahl argues that acts, such as the founding acts and the first laws were alegal since their was no system in place that had the legitimate authority to establish their legality or illegality. Online businesses are in a similar situation. They create a “digital divide” and a “wild frontier” within which many are exploited and others assert dominance. 

Alegal acts include all of the gray market activity (See Fig. 1) happening with the unknown but fraudulent academics who buy or sell work to others for which a different person takes complete credit.  For example, falsely authoring something.  

Lindahl, H. (2008). “Border Crossings by Immigrants: Legality, Illegality, and Alegality.” Res Publica. 14:117–135

Academic Fraud is Systemic

Homework has various forms, including essays, programming, projects, illustrations, collecting data, figures, tables, photography etc. Homework is an invaluable aspect of the education system and learning, which requires diligence, punctuality and growing trust between the teacher and student.

A large percentage of one’s grade point average comes from homework. For example, university asynchronous online courses sometimes allow 100% of coursework and grades to be solely “homework.”

Our major concern: All of the abovementioned forms of homework are being purchased and sold for profit globally, online and with anonymity via contracts with confidentiality clauses, which leads to systematic cheating by means of deceptions about authorship.

Fig. 2 Means of Increasing Efficiency of Systematic Cyber Cheating with Contracts Facilitating Academic Fraud

Ghost authorship leads to alegal profit-making schemes due to the increasingly competitive nature of publishing within academic journals and publishing houses, which face illegitimate authorship in the forms of gift, guest and ghost authorships, and because entrepreneurs have created online advertising systems that market ghost writings to their largest customer-base, namely, students.

Students who purchase “custom-designed homework” misallocate funds that would have partially been spent on educational services and products for the following reason: Since students are only willing to spend finite amounts of money on contributions to their educations, and essay mill services contribute to facilitating the attainment of educational certifications and credentials, less money is allocated by students to legitimate education services and products.

Ghostwriting for masters and doctoral theses: Ghostwriters may translate works from one language into English in several spots of the thesis without citing the original author. After a successful masters or doctoral candidate attains a higher position of employment, the ghostwriter can:

(1) choose to blackmail the cheater

(2) anonymously blog several of the translated passages and accuse the person of cheating and plagiarizing. This also works for books, articles etc. that are not often cited and are not available online (i.e., they pass online plagiarism checks, such as

(3) Ghostwriters may reveal themselves as the authors and produce the rough drafts of the works and messages sent to and from to the cheaters, which will reveal the “ghostwriters” identities, but this will likely lead to their inabilities to work for the same essay mill. They risk facing lawsuits since the ghostwriters signed contracts with confidentiality clauses for customers.  

1. The former president of Hungary, Pál Schmitt, resigned after he was accused by Semmelweis University of plagiarizing his doctoral dissertation.

2. West Virginia University revoked the EMBA of Heather Bresch, CEO of Mylan pharmaceutical company, the daughter of the governor of West Virgina, Joe Manchin III.

3. In 2008 the head of acquisitions for the Armaments Corporation of South Africa, Shamim Shaik, had his mechanical engineering doctorate revoked after allegations of plagiarism by the University of KwaZulu Natal.

4. Sirkan Anilir, Professor at the University of Tokyo, had his doctorate revoked from the University of Tokyo in 2010, which was the first doctorate ever rescinded by the university, according to the Daily Yomiuri.

5. Vice President of the European Parliament, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, had her doctorate revoked from the University of Heidelberg, which accused her of plagiarizing her dissertation.

6. MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis has his doctorate taken away by the University of Bonn for plagiarism.

7. Annette Schavan had her doctorate rescinded and resigned from her position as the German Minister of Education and Research.

8. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had his doctorate revoked and stepped down as the German Minister of Defense. 

If the hypothesis is correct that many of our education systems’ graduate students and part-time professors are ghostwriters, this would provide one reason why money may be increasingly reallocated to anonymous owners of essay mills and ghostwriters that could have been, in part, used by the education systems.

Does the increasing number of essay mills reduce the demand for university writing centers and services? Do students who pay for essays written by ghost authors actually purchase less items and services from universities and their stores (e.g., books, tutors, study materials etc.)? What would students legitimately purchase if they were not buying their homework from anonymous businesses online?

An Educational Quiz:

Your academic moral standards versus domination in academics

You are a student in either an economics course or college writing course, and you are required to produce a twelve page research paper in seven days, which is 30% of your final grade for the class. So far your average is 83% in the class after tests, in-class writings, and quizzes. However, you have a very busy schedule this week, including two job interviews and a date that you have already postponed with a friend of a friend. Additionally, you work full-time and cannot take one day off of work this week. The price of taking or retaking the course is $1,000, and a classmate informs you that the price of a high quality twelve page essay is $191.88. If you wait for three days, the price of the essay will cost $215.88 though.

What is the smartest thing for you to do?

A. Retake the course

B. Postpone the date and/or job interview and write the essay completely

C. Buy the essay, change it a little for an hour to improve it, and fulfill your busy schedule

D. Have a friend help you write the essay 

E. None of the above

Businesses Facilitating Academic Fraud for Over a Decade but with Anonymous Owners

I was teaching a university online asynchronous course that only required homework from the students. The philosophy course was titled “Ideas Shaping the 21st Century.” I wanted to see how easy it would be to order a paper for my course. So, I chose the alias “Jan Wolf” and used several misspellings and a series of questions that would allow me to know how easy it would be to escape the detection of the professor by engaging in cyber pseud-epigraphy.  The following SMS conversation took place on February 8, 2012:

[Jan Wolf] Will the Custom Writing company finish my hole essay for me?

[Nina Richmond] Hello, my name is Nina Richmond, how may I help you?

[Jan Wolf] Hi, I have a few ?s about the services

[Nina Richmond] You are welcome.

[Nina Richmond] Yes, we cna provide the whole essay if required.

[Jan Wolf] I need to turn in a paper for a university class

[Jan Wolf] Can I get help from the company

[Nina Richmond] Yes, of course.

[Nina Richmond] What is the subject of the paper?

[Jan Wolf] It’s philosophy.[Jan Wolf] I have to make a bunch of arguments for a tough professor.

[Nina Richmond] Yes, we have writers who specialize in this field.

Academic Fraud is Prolific and International

Clarke and Lancaster (2007 & 2008) analyzed 912 cases of contract cheating they collected from March 2004 until October 2006. Their results were: 50% of contract cheating arose from sources in the USA. 26% originated from 46 institutions of higher education in the UK.

The average number of posted requests for a student (i.e., from the 912 cases) was between four and seven assignments.

Most requests were for projects or solutions concerning databases and computer programming and many Bachelor of Science theses and Master of Science projects.

Clark R. and Lancaster T., (2007), “Establishing a systematic six-stage process for detecting contract cheating”, 2 Communications of the IBIMA Volume 10, 2009 ISSN: 1943-7765

Mahmood, Z. (2009). “Contract Cheating: A New Phenomenon in Cyber-Plagiarism.” Communications of the IBIMA, vol. 10: 93-97. 

Ads for Essay Mills Illegalized

Since 2007 essay mills have no longer been allowed by Google to advertise their services on various websites. The ban is specifically against “academic paper-writing services and the sale of pre-written essays, theses, and dissertations,” according to Coughlan, which blacklists the sites along with tobacco, prostitution, drugs, fake documents, miracle potions and cures, and weapons.

This means that essay mills services must find other ways of advertising, including passing out fliers on high school and college campuses that read something like: “We’ll complete your homework for you at the lowest prices on the market!”

Coughlan, S. (2007). “Google Bans Essay Writing Adverts.” BBC News. May 22nd.

Student Sues Term-Paper Web Sites for Selling One of Her Papers”

The title above was written by the journalist Jeffrey Young who investigated a lawsuit filed on behalf of a graduate student named “Blue Macellari.” who is accusing the owners of three internet websites, including Rusty Carroll who own a R2C2 Inc.Young writes:

Ms. Macellari’s friend was doing a Google search and noticed that Ms. Macellari’s paper was on a termpaper site called Doing My Homework. Ms. Macellari, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, says she wrote the paper in 1999 while she was studying at the University of Cape Town during her junior year abroad. After her friend told her about the first site, Ms. Macellari discovered that the paper was also available at two other sites, Free For Essays and Free For Term Papers. The paper, titled “South Africa’s GEAR: Using a ‘Revised Dependency Theory’ to Assess South Africa’s Situation,” was still available on all three of the Web sites last week, with Ms. Macellari’s name listed just after the paper’s title.”

Later Young writes that Macellari’s “lawyer, Evan Andrew Parke, an attorney with McDermott Will & Emery, in Washington, said that Ms. Macellari had never given the sites permission to publish it or had any communication with the company or Mr. Carroll. Mr. Parke said she did post the paper to a university Web site briefly as part of her course work. ‘We don’t know how they got it,’ he said.”

Rusty Carroll owns R2C2, Digital Smith’s Corp., possesses several interconnected websites, including,, and at least six other sites, which have been shut down. These sites carried around 300,000 essays, which were largely taken without authors’ permissions.

Rusty Carroll was fined $20,000, required to take down his websites or face further penalties, and to pay for ads in the Chronicle and the Wall street Journal.

According to Carroll’s lawyer, Carroll is “a small player” within the business of online essay mills, and he earned about $80,000 last year. This ruling is “not going to scare everybody else. There’s too much money involved.” (Marklein, 2010)Who are the major distributors of homework for profit? Are they academics, e.g., in business departments? How can we reduce their negative affects on education in order to improve global education?

Marklein, M. (2010). “Ruling on Online Term Papers Cites Copyright Questions.” USA Today Feb. 1st.Weidner v. Carroll, No. 06-782-DR11, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, January 21, 2010.

Strategies for Reducing Students’ Illegitimate Authorship:

Legal Systems GENERAL ESSAY BANK REQUIREMENT: Legislation can require business owners to place customers’ purchased works within plagiarism checking banks before the works are received by customers. Authors may be identified as company “ghostwriters.” This will allow professors and teachers to electronically submit students’ essays into a system that can tell them whether students cheated via ghost authorship.

LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST NON-COMPLIANCE WITH ESSAY BANK SUBMISSIONS: Essay mill website traffic can be monitored by law enforcement agents on the web who penalize essay mill business owners for selling writings to customers if the customer receives the essay before the plagiarism bank.

LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST THOSE WHO FACILITATE ILLEGITIMATE AUTHORSHIP: Legislation can also be passed that requires investigations that demonstrate and shut down US websites involved in selling works that US students use for submissions of illegitimate authorship to their high schools and universities. Foreign websites can be blocked, Google, Yahoo and Bing may be legally required to disallow such sites’ availability as search material.

VOID AND INVALIDATE CUSTOMER CONFIDENTIALITY CONTRACTS: Legislation can void and invalidate the confidentiality clauses of essay mill contracts as well as encourage ghostwriters to submit writings to an investigative committee supporting academic honesty.

Reducing Student Ghost Authorship: Strategies for Education Systems

IF YOU CAN’T BEAT, THEN JOIN THEM!: Universities and schools may establish their own websites that anonymously sell homework and custom writings that are written by part-time employees and students with excellent marks. Writings would be automatically placed within plagiarism detectors so that customers who buy such works and submit them as university or high school assignments with illegitimate authorship are automatically flagged, i.e., after instructors submit their works into a plagiarism checker. Universities would compete with essay mills for customers as well as reduce cheating since students would become more knowledgeable about the risks.

ORGANIZATION OF MANDATORY UNIVERSITY AND HIGH SCHOOL SUBMISSION DAYS FOR HOMEWORK: Numerous universities can organize “assignment submission days” for particular subjects, such as biology, in which case all homework assignments in the field of biology within these universities would be submitted on the same days so that there are not enough ghostwriters in the field of biology, for instance, to produce the works.

ORAL DEFENSE STRATEGY: Universities and high schools may require students to give oral defenses of their papers, which explain the content and how they came up with the ideas and references. Suspected students and a few others who are selected at random would be required to face a series of organized questions about their methodology, research, and arguments.

EDUCATIONAL CONTRACTS: Educational institutions may require students to sign documents for each class, making explicit what “stealing intellectual property” is and that the consequences for using other people’s works via illegitimate authorship, especially ghost authorship, will result in expulsion after an investigation finds them guilty. Moreover, any certificate granted by the institution to such a student will be rescinded.

We Still Need a Call to Action

The business of ghost authorship is a multi-billion dollar, illegitimate industry, which is readily observed via its infrastructure and prolific nature online.

Money is gradually being allocated into illegitimate companies and away from education systems.

What happens when a ghostwriter is a professor and coincidentally writes a paper for his own student? How should an employer handle hiring someone with a master’s degree but who has had his bachelor’s degree rescinded by his former university? These are the sorts of questions that are likely to arise if the current status of online essay mills continues.

Tenure and tenure-track professors, journalists, medical doctors etc. benefit from essay mill companies whenever they are willing to pay prices for ideas, research and homework. They provide safety nets for those who must meet publication deadlines.

Statistical analyses concerning this topic are futile since it involves black market operations that obviously have great impacts upon our political, mass media and education systems.


Write your legislators in order to prevent massive scale cheating within your own region.  (Foreseeable problem: Many of the legislators have been involved in cheating or profit from it.) 

Write to Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engine companies, and voice strong complaints about the negative impacts of these organizations on humanity, education systems, especially with expensive higher education and on corruption in politics.

If you are an educator, coordinate your homework assignments. Give students less time to complete them. Make sure that proctored exams, oral exams and interactive discussions about the topic are given greater weight when students are unable to articulate themselves spontaneously on the matter, and place a greater emphasis upon attendance and participation.  



Citation: Brant, William.  (2022).  “Academic Fraud, Legal and Political Power.” Ethical Conflict Consulting.  September edition.  


* Thank you to the Fulbright Association for their welcoming hospitality and openness to the presentation of “Improving Global Education” for the 35th annual conference in London in 2012.