TEMPLE TERRACE — For years, Temple Terrace Ambassador Mel Jurado has angry her character to her bookish credentials.
Her email abode is “AskDrMel” and she already collection a car with a “DRMEL” claimed authorization plate. A Ph.D. in attitude is listed on her resume and web biographies forth with two master’s degrees — one in attitude and the added in sports medicine.
But annal appearance Jurado’s Ph.D. is from an unaccredited accord academy alleged LaSalle University, a belled ascendancy comminute that was based in Mandeville, La.
And the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says it never issued her a master’s amount in exercise analysis and sports medicine, as she has claimed on at atomic two applications for government positions.
Jurado told the Tampa Bay Times she was blind LaSalle was a ascendancy comminute until a anchorman told her several weeks ago. She presented a archetype and a 460-plus folio argument that she said was based on analysis she did for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Tampa.
“I apperceive I did the work,’’ said Jurado, 59.
As for the master’s in sports medicine, Jurado said she has annal proving she accustomed the amount in 1983. But she did not acknowledge to again calls, emails and a registered letter allurement her to accommodate a archetype or affidavit and to explain why the University of Illinois has no almanac of the additional master’s degree.
During its analysis of Jurado’s bookish claims, the Times talked to accreditation and bookish experts, a above FBI abettor and an ascendancy on ascendancy mills. Reporters additionally advised Jurado’s applications to accessible agencies.
Among the findings:
• Jurado did not about acknowledge breadth she becoming her Ph.D. back she listed her accreditation on websites or in job applications.
• At Jurado’s folio on LinkedIn, a networking website for professionals, her Ph.D. was listed as advancing from LaSalle but with the logo and a articulation to a altered La Salle University, this one a well-regarded Catholic university in Philadelphia.
• Jurado bootless to analyze amid the unaccredited accord academy and the Catholic university in a 2005 appliance she completed afterwards Gov. Jeb Bush appointed her to the Hillsborough County Aboriginal Learning Coalition. The anatomy artlessly lists her Ph.D. as advancing from “La Salle.”
• Both that appliance and one beatific to the Children’s Lath of Hillsborough County in 2013 included the master’s amount in sports medicine.
• For about a year afterward her swearing-in as ambassador in 2017, her adventures on the Temple Terrace website afield declared she becoming her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. It still says that on a adventures at the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. website.
Jurado told Times reporters she had not looked at her adventures on the burghal website. If it was wrong, she said, it was a “city error.”
“I apperceive what my bio is and what I accord people,” she said.
But Temple Terrace emails acquired through a accessible annal appeal appearance that burghal business administrator Laurie Hayes emailed Jurado a abstract archetype of the adventures and asked for any changes or additions on Nov. 8, one day afterwards Jurado was affidavit in as mayor.
Jurado replied to the email afterwards suggesting any corrections.
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The alone abode the Times begin breadth Jurado absolutely appear that her Ph.D was from LaSalle in Louisiana was on her appliance to the Children’s Lath of Hillsborough County, Times analysis shows.
She didn’t get the job.
• • •
Jurado is added than aloof a small-city mayor.She and bedmate Rod Jurado are both alive in bounded Republican politics. Her Facebook folio includes photos of her alongside Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi.
She has served on added than a dozen accompaniment and bounded boards and alert has accustomed accessories from the Florida governor. Her account includes bristles years on the Florida Boxing Commission and nine years on the University of South Florida Athletic Association lath of directors. For about 15 months, she was administrator of the Florida Office of Aboriginal Learning, astate bureau that at the time had a $1 billion-plus budget.
In 1991, she founded The Profitable Group, a animal resources, training and consulting firm. She cited her bookish accreditation while accepting affairs with dozens of companies, non-profit organizations and governments. The account includes the Hillsborough and Polk County academy boards and the Florida Department of Accouchement and Families.
Jurado enrolled at LaSalle in 1994, several years afore the Internet would cede accord courses obsolete. She already had a bachelor’s and master’s amount in attitude but capital a Ph.D.
She said she was told about LaSalle by addition at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, which did not acquire a Ph.D. attitude program. At that time, USF offered alone a bifold master’s and Ph.D., she said.
La Salle answerable about $2,300 to abstraction for a Ph.D., annal show. Over the aing two years, Jurado said, she mailed and accustomed abstraction materials.
“Nothing anytime acquainted hinky to me,” she said. “I was told what affidavit to write. They were graded. I got feedback. I proposed my argument work. It was no altered than what I accomplished at U of I.”
Jurado was accustomed a Ph.D in March 1996. Aloof a few months later, the academy was raided by FBI agents and bankrupt down.
Investigators begin that alike admitting the academy had advancement of 6,000 acceptance at the time, there were never added than 10 bodies allocation papers. In abounding instances, they were amateur to appraise the courses they formed on, the allegation stated. In some cases, grades were awarded not on content, but artlessly by belief the submission.
The academy had alike set up a affected accreditation bureau with a Washington D.C. answering account and P.O. Box to accord with student’s inquiries about the school.
The arrangement worked. Amid 1989 and June 1996, the academy took in about $36.5 actor from about 15,000 students.
“They had droves of acceptance complaining, acceptance actuality snookered,’’ said Allen Ezell, a retired FBI abettor who created and headed the agency’s ascendancy comminute investigations unit. With John Bear, Ezell co-wrote the book, Amount Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Actor Affected Diplomas.
Bear said the sales bodies from LaSalle were shrewd.
“They got a adroitness by blast of what the actuality wanted,’’ he said.
If a abeyant apprentice said, for example, that he had 17 years in business, the agent would say that his real-life acquaintance already able him for a master’s amount in business administration, Bear said.
Jurado, who had been alive as a adviser for about four years, said the academy gave her 12 alum acclaim hours for activity acquaintance but said she still had to complete 20 acclaim hours of study.
In 1996, academy architect Thomas Kirk pleaded accusable to artifice and tax artifice and accepted that he had defrauded students. He was bedevilled to bristles years in a federal bastille affected in Beaumont, Texas, breadth he set up addition ascendancy comminute while in jail, Ezell said. Kirk died in 2008.
In 1997, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans beatific belletrist to all LaSalle acceptance alms them a allocation of the money bedeviled if they alternate their diplomas and transcripts.
Few alternate them, Ezell said.
Jurado told the Times she never accustomed such a letter and was never offered a refund.
• • •
Short for Doctor of Philosophy, a Ph.D. requires a apprentice to aftermath a cardboard that includes aboriginal analysis abacus to the ability in their accountable area.
Among the requirements are a abstract analysis and a dissertation. A doctorate is alone awarded afterwards the apprentice has auspiciously dedicated the argument afore a console of able academics.
Jurado accustomed Times reporters to photograph the table of capacity and blade through her dissertation. It included a abstract review, methodology, allegation and a conclusion. She would not acquiesce reporters to archetype the accomplished document.
She said her Ph.D. explored means to admeasurement increases in self-esteem for accouchement who abounding the Boys and Girls Club of Tampa. The adjustment she developed was adopted at the time by the account organization, she said.
Her aegis of the argument was done during a affair that was videotaped and beatific to LaSalle, she said. Representatives from the United Way, the Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County Accessible Schools and the accompaniment Department of Juvenile Justice were present, she added.
She could not bethink all the individuals in appearance but was abiding they included above Circuit Judge Dennis Alvarez and then-Boys and Girls Club admiral Glenn Permuy.
“They affirmed it for validity, believability and appropriateness,” she said. “I forwarded that assignment to LaSalle who accepted the work, conferred by doctorate.”
Alvarez said he recalled Jurado authoritative a presentation but did not bethink whether it was accustomed as a argument defense.
Permuy said he had no bond of any presentation by Jurado or a affair actuality videotaped. He did not anamnesis any affairs she devised actuality adopted and said Rod Jurado was added alive in the club at the time than his wife.
“I vaguely bethink her actuality complex in the organization,” Permuy said.
Experts contacted by the Times said any amount from LaSalle would not be accustomed as accepted by acceptable scholars.
“It’s affected … absolutely fake,’’ said George Gollin, a physics assistant at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who has formed to betrayal ascendancy mills.
Dwayne Smith, carnality provost at the University of South Florida, said if a actuality with a Ph.D. from LaSalle activated for a adroitness position that appropriate the degree, “it’s highly, awful absurd that actuality would be hired.’’
Twelve states acquire laws prohibiting or akin the use of unaccredited diplomas for any purpose, according to a cardboard Gollin and adolescent advisers wrote for the Stanford Law and Policy Analysis in 2010. Florida is not one of the 12 states.
In 2000, Bear, who has a Ph.D. in communications from Michigan Accompaniment University, conducted ascendancy comminute analysis with Rich Douglas, a continued time Air Force apprenticeship officer. They beatific questionnaires to 300 university registrars allurement whether they would acquire degrees from a array of schools “always, usually, sometimes, rarely or never.’’
“The LaSalle acknowledgment was ‘never’ in every case,’’ Bear said.
Jurado’s accreditation did not set off anxiety accretion with her clients.
Lance Anastasio, administrator of the Polk County Citizens HealthCare Oversight Committee, said his console was not attractive at her abilities back it assassin Jurado to devise a way to admeasurement how agencies were carrying bloom affliction to the poor.
“To my knowledge, no one saw a charge to analysis her credentials,’’ said Anastasio, retired admiral and arch controlling of Winter Haven Hospital. “We bare to apperceive what her success amount is.’’
That Jurado was able to appear up with a band-aid in an eight-hour affair is a attestation to her authoritative skills, he said.
“We were absolutely admiring with her job,’’ Anastasio said.
Walter “Butch’’ Flansburg, admiral of the controlling lath of the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame, said Jurado “is a very, actual ablaze person’’ who serves on the lath and specializes in accumulated babyminding and guidance.
Flansburg said he’s never discussed her accreditation with her.
When asked if it would accomplish any difference, he said, “This is the aboriginal I’m audition about it’’ and he would not accomplish an actual acumen call.
Jurado has accustomed aglow reviews from her academy participants, according to responses included in her appliance to the Children’s Lath of Hillsborough County. Participants accepted her activating speaking appearance and adroitness of humor, and say they took abroad admired lessons.
“Down to earth, truthful, hit the attach on the arch as to the problems we face with added bodies every day and gave us applied solutions,’’ wrote Nicole Maurais of Disney World.
“In all the times we acquire provided in-service training for our leaders and staff, I can never bethink a bigger program! ‘’ wrote Varlorie Ellspermann of the Munroe Regional Medical Center, now Florida Hospital, Ocala.
A cardinal of accessible admiral who additionally accustomed degrees from LaSalle acquire had their accreditation about questioned, including a Cape Coral burghal administrator applicant in 2010, a New Jersey anchorage official in 2013, and a academy administrator in Pennsylvania in 2014.
The burghal administrator applicant was disqualified disqualified for the position. The New Jersey anchorage official was accursed and the Pennsylvania administrator retired six months aboriginal afterwards association questioned her salary.
In July, the Times appear that George Buck, a Republican active adjoin Democrat Charlie Crist on Nov. 6 for the U.S. House District 13 seat, accustomed his doctorate in accessible administering from the asleep LaSalle.
Buck removed the “Ph.D.” aing to his name on his attack website.
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Just a few canicule afterwards Jurado met with reporters, her online adventures and LinkedIn contour were updated.
Her revised adventures still lists her Ph.D. from LaSalle.
Contact Christopher O’Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.
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