Company scams thousands of people with fake high school diplomas

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) - Imagine receiving your high school diploma only to find out years later that the diploma is fake! 

A high school churning out fake diplomas scammed thousands across the metro Detroit area and across the country including a woman from Warren.

"It's truly heartbreaking.  They knew what they were doing," said Elizabeth Osborne.

29-year-old Elizabeth Osborne thought she graduated from Belford High School back in 2006.

"I've graduated high school, I'm done, I'm happy," said Elizabeth about how she felt at the time.

The diploma meant the world to the Warren woman who was home schooled and struggled with a learning disability.

"I wanted to get a real diploma.  I did the work, I wanted the diploma," said Elizabeth. Back then she was Elizabeth Lauber. At the time, the 23-year-old lived in Bay City and worked at her family's bakery business.

"My parents and me and my best friend all went out for a party and everything," she said.

So you can imagine Elizabeth's shock when she recently applied to two colleges in metro Detroit who said her high school diploma was worthless.

"They both told me outright that my diploma was fake, that it wasn't real. Oh, I was very mad. I actually started crying," said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and her mother had found Belford online.   Elizabeth took a test, paid the company $300. She received packet in the mail shortly after that had a legitimate looking diploma and several certificates of excellence, including her achievement in calculus.

When I asked Elizabeth how she did in calculus at Belford she said she did not even remember taking the class. She did not remember, because she never took the class. The diploma and the whole school were fraudulent and based out of somewhere in Pakistan.

"The problem with Belford High School is that it is a total and complete scam," said attorney Thomas Howlett.  Howlett and the Googasian Firm in Bloomfield Hills represented Elizabeth and 30,000 other people in a class action lawsuit against Belford.

"The people they are taking advantage of are people who are trying to better themselves," said Howlett.

When the firm won the lawsuit last year, a judge ordered the owner of Belford , Salem Kureshi and the company, to take down their websites, cease operations and pay back millions to victims they scammed. 

The law firm said they believe Belford recently popped back up again and are trying to extort their clients for more money, now with promises of a college degree and trying to rip off new people.

The Better Business Bureau gives Belford High School an ‘F'. The BBB warns not to fall victim to Belford's fast and easy education that they promise. The BBB has dozens and dozens of complaints against the school and call the high school diploma worthless.

When I called a phone number in Delaware that Belford gave federal court as their contact information, I found a completely different company.  The man who answered said he was not part of Belford.  He said he had never heard of Belford and that his company is based out of Malaysia.

"It's scary that you've worked all these years at your job and you find out your diploma isn't real," said Elizabeth.

Now Elizabeth hopes her story can save someone else from falling victim to fake online schools like Belford.

"I'm ecstatic that other people will find out about this and get on to them and no one else will get scammed by them," said Elizabeth.

To learn more about the class action lawsuit and to find out if you might have been scammed by Belford, please visit the following website: www.belfordlawsuit.com

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