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Police Chief Admits Degrees May Be Fake

wftv.com
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Fruitland Park, FL

FRUITLAND PARK, Fla. -- Fruitland Park's police chief admitted that his college degrees could be fake Wednesday.

Police Chief Mark Isom has undergraduate and master's degrees from Youngsfield University.

Isom said he took online courses from 2003 to 2009 from the school, making A's and B's in calculus, biology and several police-related subjects.

But Eyewitness News found out that Youngsfield University is not a nationally accredited university.

It's what is called a "degree mill" -- an organization that allows people to pay a few hundred dollars for a bogus transcript and degree.

Now, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is involved because Isom was receiving more money in his paycheck because of the degrees.

"They are fast. You don't actually have to put in any work, if all you're doing is sending in a resume and getting a degree by return mail," said Alan Contreras, a degree mill expert and the administrator of Oregon's Office of Degree Authorization. He says Youngsfield University only has a Web site and no physical address.

"There's no evidence that we've found that Youngsfield University exists anywhere as a legitimate degree-granting institution," Contreras said.

Isom would not speak on camera with Eyewitness News, but he said over the phone he did put in the work during this off time.

Wednesday, FDLE’s Orlando office told Eyewitness News its criminal justice standards and training commission was looking into the matter. The commission could ask the city to conduct an internal investigation to see if Isom intentionally violated state law, since he’s been receiving about $80 a month in incentive pay.

Thursday, FDLE spokesman Mike Morrison, who is in Tallahassee, said the commission is not involved in the case but is aware of the incident. Morrison also said the agency is working with the city to determine the next steps.

About the time Eyewitness News requested Isom's degrees and transcripts, the chief told the city there might be a problem with the degrees and he should stop receiving that extra cash.

Fruitland Park City Manager Ralph Bowers said the chief is the victim of a scam and a person of high integrity who wouldn't hurt the city.

Isom, who has been with the department for 20 years and makes more than $70,000 a year, has agreed to pay back the money he earned from having the degrees. The city is still adding up a total.

This is just the latest scandal for the Fruitland Park Police Department.

In the last month, Eyewitness News reported how $2,000 disappeared from the department's evidence room.

Eyewitness News also broke the story of a driver who's in the process of suing the department, after he said Officer John Matey beat him up and arrested him, because he honked his horn to let the officer know his car was sticking out in the road.

Last year, Eyewitness News exposed an officer working for the department who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

James Elkins resigned and agreed to give up his law enforcement certificate.

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