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Fake Degrees, False References, and CV Lies Revealed

In this article, we look back at some of the most significant cases of employment fraud to hit the news, and how they demonstrate the importance of robust due diligence in a company's recruitment process.

February 20, 2020

Many organisations already view background checks as an essential part of their recruitment process, allowing them to verify their candidates’ credentials and hire with confidence. Yet stories can still often be found in the press where companies are being caught out by individuals that have lied on their CVs, faked references, and falsified qualifications. To help tackle this issue, South Africa has actually criminalised CV fraud, which could see individuals facing jail time for the offence.

In this article, we look back at some of the most significant cases of employment fraud to recently hit the news, and how they demonstrate the importance of robust due diligence in an organisation’s recruitment process.

Carole Farr – BA Clubs – Chief Executive and Finance Director

In October 2019, the former Chief Executive and Finance Director of BA Clubs, Carole Farr, was sentenced to 6 years in prison for fraud. Farr was found to have embezzled over £1m, spending around £500,000 on her company credit card to fund an extravagant lifestyle. In addition, she took another £500,000 from the business to loan to a Nigerian boyfriend whom she met online, who never repaid her.

The money, intended for BA Clubs, which organises social events for staff, was spent by Farr on a host of things, including two Business Class trips to Australia, a 50th birthday party, and stays at 56 different hotels, including The Ritz.

Farr had already been convicted twice before for fraud; however, these convictions weren’t picked up during the recruitment process as her criminal record wasn’t checked. It was also discovered that her extensive accountancy qualifications she claimed were fake.

Veronica Hilda Theriault – South Australia’s Department of the Premier and Cabinet – Chief Information Officer

Veronica Hilda Theriault was convicted towards the end of 2019 for “deception, dishonesty, and abuse of public office” after it was discovered that she had lied on her CV and falsified “glowing” references to secure a high salary role with an Australian regional government.

Theriault was the Chief Information Officer at South Australia’s Department of the Premier and Cabinet for just over a month and earned about 33,000 Australian dollars (around £17,200) before her falsifications came to light.

The court found that the fraudulent information she submitted to the department related to her education and prior employment, and when asked for a reference following her interview, she posed as a previous employer.

In December 2019, Theriault was sentenced to 25 months imprisonment, with a non-parole period of a year.

Full reporting of the story can be found on CNN here.

Mina Chang – U.S. Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations – Deputy Assistant Secretary

One of the most high-profile cases to emerge in recent months involved Mina Chang allegedly exaggerating her credentials. The appointee, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, hasn’t been officially convicted for fraud but has been called out in the media for exaggerating her credentials and allegedly creating a fake Time magazine cover, which appeared on a video promoting her own non-profit organisation.

According to NBC News, Chang had a significant number of dubious claims on her CV posted by the State Department. One of these included being a Harvard ‘alumna’ which, while strictly speaking true, has arguably been misrepresented, as she didn’t hold a degree from the university but instead took a seven-week course there. Chang’s educational history on LinkedIn also said that she took part in a six-day “Executive Nonprofit Leadership” program at Southern Methodist University in Texas. However, following investigations by NBC, it was discovered that Chang’s enrolment information was absent. Her basic information was found in the school’s database, but the school never received payment or course records on Chang, according to a course official.

Although Chang has denied all allegations, she resigned from her position at the Bureau, showing how serious the reputational damage such claims can have on an individual, especially one in a senior position.

Johnny Wong – Friends of the Earth – Assistant Manager

Earlier this year, a man in Hong Kong admitted to defrauding the environmental campaigning organisation Friends of the Earth into paying him a salary of HK$ 400,000 (around £39,000) for a role he attained using fake academic and professional qualifications.

Johnny Wong Kwok-Leung claimed on his CV that he held a master’s degree in economics from Baptist University and was an associate member of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants, both of which were later found to be untrue. Because of these false qualifications, Friends of the Earth believed that he was overqualified for the project officer role he had initially applied for, and instead offered him a more senior role at a higher salary. The organisation filed a complaint to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which could see Wong facing up to two years’ jail time for fraud.

Full reporting of the story can be found in South China Morning Post here

Ryan Warmbold – Manchester Airport – Special Constable

Ryan Warmbold was caught out this year for falsifying a reference by his previous inspector when he applied for a security job at Manchester airport. The fraud was uncovered when Warmbold undertook training at the airport, during which he falsely claimed that his co-worker had criminal links.

During an investigation into these remarks, Warmbold’s new employer traced the original references he had given and found that his previous inspector had not, in fact, provided a reference. The airport required candidates in this role to have a five-year working history. However, Warmbold had been fired from his previous position at a school and had only been a special constable for two years before this. He also suggested during his trial that he had made up his reference from the school as he had been dismissed as a result of fake social media accounts set up by an ex-partner.

Warmbold was given a 24-week suspended sentence and was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.

Full reporting of the story can be found on Manchester Evening News here.

Additional reading

  • According to the HireRight 2020 Global Benchmark Report, 66% of EMEA respondents have found discrepancies in their candidate’s employment histories  – Download the 2020 Global Benchmark Report 

  • NHS boss receives a suspended prison sentence after lying about his degree – Personnel Today

Release Date: February 20, 2020

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