Friday, October 31, 2014

NH State Senator Cataldo, Nuclear Engineer, Has Fake Diploma

Senator Sam Cataldo
New Hampshire Republican State Senator Sam Cataldo appears to have a fraudulent Master's Degree in Nuclear Engineering from disgraced diploma mill LaSalle University in Louisiana.   Senator Cataldo has reportedly worked at Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant and Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station.  It is unknown if Mr. Cataldo knew his degree was fake when seeking employment, if he used a fake credential to gain employment, and what the consequent risks to the public were.

Mr. Cataldo is currently seeking reelection in NH Senate District 6 (Rochester area) against Democrat Rich Leonard.  Election day is Tuesday November 4th, 4 days from now.

The evidence has been in plain view for quite some time.  On 8/20/2012, Foster's Daily Democrat reported Mr. Cataldo's biography:
He is a native of Lawrence, Mass., attended Lowell Technical College and, later in his career, Northeast University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in industrial management and Lasalle University in Louisiana, where he gained a master's degree in nuclear engineering.

[... He] was also a cemetery superintendent, before becoming a commercial nuclear contractor for the next 20 years. This included working at both Connecticut Yankee and Pilgrim nuclear power stations as a trainer, consultant, shift supervisor and site superintendent.
Senator Cataldo's official page at the General Court is a bit more vague:
The senator is a graduate of Lowell Tech, Northeastern University and Lasalle University.

There is a similarly named La Salle University in Pennsylvania (website) that is legitimate, so we are relying on Foster's reporting here for the important detail that this is LaSalle University in Louisiana.  There is also a discrepancy between "Northeastern" and "Northeast" Universities that doesn't exactly fill me with confidence in Foster's.  It does not appear that the accredited La Salle U in Pennsylvania offers a master's program in Nuclear Engineering.

The Wikipedia article entitled "James Kirk Diploma Mills" (much to the regret of us Trekkies) relays the following:
In the mid-1990s, LaSalle provoked the attention of authorities because of evidence that government workers had been awarded promotions and salary increases based on fraudulent advanced degrees. According to a prosecutor with the Attorney General's office, more than a dozen known diploma mills had been set up in Louisiana, where the laws were particularly lenient. Federal investigators estimated that LaSalle, alone, had issued in excess of 40,000 fake diplomas, the bulk of them to government employees. In fact, LaSalle's sales and marketing materials highlighted the fact that many of its graduates occupied high positions in government.[citation needed]

The school was shut down after a July 1996 raid by the FBI, U.S. postal inspectors, and the Internal Revenue Service.[7] According to John Bear, the U.S. Attorney wrote to every person in the LaSalle files, officially informing them that LaSalle was nothing more than a diploma mill. All were advised that funds were available for refunds, providing they turned in their diploma(s). Many didn't, presumably so they could continue to parlay their degrees for more money in the marketplace, with impunity (they could always claim ignorance, later). The FBI report stated that LaSalle had only one faculty member serving 15,000 students (and her only degree was a Bachelor's from LaSalle). Furthermore, the back of the student application forms contained a disclaimer advising students that their signatures simply made them Ministers of Kirk's World Christian Church, and that any degrees they might get would merely be religious degrees, regardless of the subject.[8]
The article goes on to report that:

 According to a 2004 Government Accountability Office report on diploma mills, which discussed the widespread purchase of fake degrees by high-ranking government officials, one manager in the National Nuclear Safety Administration paid $5,000 for a masters degree from LaSalle in 1996. He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force at the time, when he felt pressured to purchase the degree in order to be promotable to Colonel. He did not attend classes or take any tests, and he called his degree a "joke."[20]

Senator Cataldo is not the only politician whose degree from LaSalle has been questioned. That article contains the passage:

Allen Ezell, a retired FBI agent and leading authority on phony diplomas, said he remembers well the FBI's investigations into LaSalle. He said any degree handed out by LaSalle before the raid is "utterly worthless," and he questions the legitimacy of any degree after that, too.

The date of Mr. Cataldo's Master's Degree in question is unknown. Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant ceased electricity production in 1996 (Wikipedia).

The story seems to have first appeared in the comment section of Foster's Daily Democrat's endorsement of Senator Cataldo.

P.S.  Here is some further verification that LaSalle degrees are bogus from

LaSalle University (LA)
College State: Louisiana
College Website URL: none
Distance Learning Accreditation Status: CAUTION: You should be aware this college is NOT ACCREDITED by any agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the US Department of Education to award degrees.

[Permission granted to anyone who wishes to copy and publish this article, all or in part, with or without attribution to me. Permission granted to edit or modify, as long as the gist is preserved. - Dean Rubine. ]

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