MANHATTAN (CN) - The GED Testing Service claims in Federal Court that a Pakistani man and his "diploma mill" run a ring of websites that profit from the "GED" trademark, selling U.S. consumers sham diplomas from fictitious high schools.
The GED Testing Service and the American Council on Education sued Amjad Pervaiz, of Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan, and AZM Technologies, and a list of their alleged high schools, websites, and apparent aliases.
Named defendants include John McCain - obviously not the U.S. senator - SenfordHighSchool.com, OnlineGED.us, AccreditedHighSchool.us, Sunshine High School, OnlineDiplomaGED.com, and so on.
The American Council on Education and GED Testing Service "develop, deliver, and safeguard the time-honored GED test used by all 50 states and other governmental entities to certify the high school-level academic achievement of non-high school graduates," according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say that the diplomas Pervaiz and AZM sell are bogus. Defendants Senford High School and Sunshine High School both claim to be in Texas, but the plaintiffs say that no public records, business filings or any other documents indicate that the schools exist. They are "online entities only and have no physical presence in Texas," according to the complaint.
"Defendants pass off their high school equivalency diplomas to the unsuspecting public under ACE's GED marks in a deliberate effort to trade on the goodwill and prestige of the GED testing program administered by plaintiffs," the complaint states. "Many consumer complaints have been publicly lodged against defendants by defrauded consumers to no avail. Defendants operate their diploma mill online and have registered their domain names under fictional names and addresses. Their fraudulent websites similarly provide bogus contact information.
Defendants' unlawful actions are causing immediate and irreparable harm to plaintiffs and to the general public by generating consumer confusions, harming the goodwill and reputation of the GED marks, and unfairly competing with plaintiffs' legitimate testing services."
Some of the defendants' websites even post bogus photos of the schools and make "false and misleading" statements about them, the plaintiffs say.
The Sunshine High School website states, for example: "If you have two years of any work or life experience you can earn your GED online offerd [sic] by Sunshine.
"High school diploma is a higher degree than GED [sic] this high school diploma is easy to get online and you can earn your accredited high school diploma just 7 days.
"Sunshine High School provide you real accredited recognized High school diploma, which accepted worldwide [sic]." (Brackets in complaint.)
The plaintiffs say they had an investigator try to get a diploma from Senford High School. The investigator claimed that he had worked as a volunteer cleaning streets, and at McDonalds.
"Within 15 minutes of inputting this work experience, plaintiffs' investigator received an email from [email protected] confirming that he need only pay a fee of $299 in order to receive his diploma by mail within seven days," the complaint states.
The investigator paid through PayPal and got the diploma on Dec. 13, 2011, according to the complaint.
It adds: "Although Senford High School purports to be located in Texas, the return address lists the following information: 'Aaamir, BLANK, Pakistan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.'"
In addition to a diploma, the investigator received bogus transcripts that showed him passing specific such as like math and science, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction and damages for trademark infringement, trademark counterfeiting, unfair competition, false designation of origin, false advertising, cybersquatting, deceptive trade practices, and violations of New York General Business Law: use of a name with intent to deceive.
The first GED test was developed in 1943 at the University of Iowa and administered to 33,000 high school seniors that year, to create a standard for a passing score. More than 700,000 people take the GED each year these days; about 400,000 pass.
The plaintiffs are represented by Stephen Feingold with Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton of New York City, and Ada Meloy of Washington, D.C.
According to the complaint, information about Pervaiz and AZM Technologies is hard to come by, but they are "listed as registrants for two of the fraudulent websites (FreeGEDTest.info and AccreditedAdultDiploma.info) involved in defendants' sale of fake diplomas. These two websites provide no contact information on their sites, but the domain names are registered to Amjad Pervais, AZM Technologies at 9 Barkatpura, Sikander Pura Chowk, G.T. Road, Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan. Upon information and belief, this information is false."
Defendant Pervaiz's name is spelled as Pervaiz and Pervais in the complaint.
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