Jefferson City — Gov. Jay Nixon today signed an omnibus crime bill that includes a provision making it illegal to use false academic documents to apply for a job, college admission or in connection with any business, employment or public office.

The ready availability of phony diplomas and transcripts over the internet has allowed individuals to apply for and sometimes obtain positions for which they are not qualified.

In one case, brought to the attention of the Missouri Department of Higher Education by the University of Missouri-Columbia, a former student falsified an MU doctoral degree to apply for a position in a medical facility. A St. Charles couple also used phony transcripts and diplomas from Lindenwood and St. Charles Community College in an attempt to gain teaching positions.

Leroy Wade, assistant commissioner of higher education, says the known cases of false documentation are likely just a fraction of their actual use. “Unless an employer has a reason to be suspicious, they often accept documentation at face value,” Wade says. “The new legislation calls attention to the problem and puts people on notice that using phony documents is a crime.”

Wade says the new legislation, which makes using falsified academic documents a class C misdemeanor, is a step toward cracking down on diploma mills – businesses that purport to have academic standing but are actually selling degrees, sometimes for thousands of dollars.