LOS ANGELES (CN) – Corrupt Liberian officials with ties to rebels defamed a Liberian medical school, calling it a “diploma mill,” when its founder refused to pay bribes, Dr. Jerroll Dolphin claims in a federal class action. Dolphin established the St. Luke School of Medicine in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1998.
In 2005, after the school had relocated because of civil war, “organized conspirators and government officials, who were angered because St. Luke School of Medicine refused to pay bribes, attacked SLSOM in the media and on the Internet,” according to the 66-page complaint. The medical school and Dr. Robert Farmer are also named plaintiffs.
Defendant Mohammed Sheriff, head of the J.R. Kennedy hospital in Monrovia, “asked for a bribe of $6,000 USD a month to make SLSOM a ‘credible’ institution in Liberia,” according to the complaint. Dolphin says he refused to pay.
Sheriff, who allegedly has ties to rebels and a reputation of being “very ruthless” and “untrustworthy,” intimidated the local press into defaming Dolphin and his school by threatening to have their press passes revoked, Dolphin says.
It was a frightening threat, as “The unemployment rate of Liberia at that time was approximately 80 to 85 percent,” according to the complaint.
Dolphin says at least one other government official also demanded bribes. When he refused to pay, the school was subsequently denounced as a fraud and the diplomas of graduates were no longer accredited, he says.
Among the attacks, Dolphin says, was a radio broadcast by a man “who called himself Dr. Kpoto” stating that the school was “giving hundreds of ‘fake’ degrees to Indians from the streets who came to Liberia to register as doctors.”
That report claimed that the school was “taking thousands of U.S. dollars for these fake degrees.”
Dolphin says his school never issued hundreds of degrees and that some students did not pay tuition at all.
“During the first eight years of SLSOM’s existence, 1998 through 2006, SLSOM graduated 36 doctors,” the complaint states. “This does not fit the definition of a ‘diploma mill.'”
Dolphin says that though some campus areas may have needed small repairs, he had plenty of books, computers, microscopes and other equipment needed to support a student body.
Dr. Benson Barh, Sheriff and others bent on ruining Dolphin’s reputation held several press conferences and “kangaroo court” hearings featuring a “list of ‘haters’ with prepared statements, with similar statements, almost word-for-word, coming forth to speak against SLSOM,” according to the complaint.
Dolphin says that his passport was taken from him several and he was unlawfully held and forced to stay in Liberia when he wanted to fly to Ghana to visit his wife. When he did travel to Ghana or Los Angeles, Liberian press reported that he had “fled Liberia for fear of prosecution” and was “thought to be in hiding,” Dolphin says.
By April 2005, the school had been removed from the International Medical Education Directory, at the request of Dr. Isaac Roland, director general of Liberia’s National Commission on Higher Education, according to the complaint. Its graduates are not allowed to take the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.
Defendants include the Pennsylvania-based Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, the Foundation for Advancement of International Education and Research, and University of Illinois professor Dr. George Gollin, an expert on “diploma mills.”
Dolphin seeks damages for trade libel, false imprisonment, negligence, violations of due process and equal protection, conversion, conspiracy to commit civil rights violations, emotional distress and loss of consortium.
He is represented by Thaddeus Culpepper of Pasadena.